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KATHERINE O'DONNELL AND MICHAEL O'ROURKE, eds.
Love, Sex, Intimacy, and Friendship Between Men, 1550-1800.
Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2003. 206 pp.
This important collection, edited by Katherine O'Donnell and Michael O'Rourke, consists of eight useful and thought-provoking essays on erotically charged feelings between men. Collectively considered, the essays demonstrate, as David Halperin remarks, a spontaneous shift of attention to affect and to subjectivity that enriches the study of male sexuality precisely by moving beyond sexuality per se to something at once more quotidian and more protean. The resulting essays do not consist of abstract speculation, but meaty, theoretically informed, historically situated food for thought.
In "'Homoplatonic, Homodepressed, Homomorbid:' Some Further Genealogies of Same-Sex Attraction in Western Civilization," George Rousseau insists upon the need to recognize "the suffering and injustice done to homosexuals" (12) over time and to capture their often invisible maladies. "Homoplatonic" refers to the variation, complexity, and energizing sexual tension inherent in same-sex discipleship and tutelage in relationships ranging from friendship to education to patronage and beyond. "Homodepressed" evokes the dejection deriving from the exclusions, penalties, and failures surrounding same-sex desire. Instead of stigmatizing the afflicted, the term legitimizes sympathetic and culturally contextualized inquiry into the somatic responses to social stigma that evade typical biographers. The related term, "homomorbid," suggests the physical and psychological illness arising from the interdiction of same-sex desire, recycling a term ("morbid") used to denote abnormality to show its origin in the pathologizing imagination. Rousseau is characteristically persuasive in this wide-ranging piece. If he guarantees "being attacked in print" for daring "to …