Saturday, December 4, 2010

Critical Article Summary

Fassler, Barbara. "Theories of Homosexuality as Sources of Bloomsbury's Androgyny." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5.2 (1979): 237

This early article explores the relationship between homosexual behavior and the concept of androgyny pertaining to the Bloomsbury group. Various theories, positive and negative, on homosexuality are listed and discussed. This is the great example of what the term “androgyny” meant in its first wave of popularity. It was trying to shrink the box that defines gender rather than multiply its meanings. First Fassler tries to challenges the idea that Ancient cultures embraced and practiced homosexual activity. She questions traditional gender roles and their origins. Plato has effect of defining sexuality of 19th-20th centuries meaning three sexes, male female and hermaphrodite. Is this one more accurate? The article also questions if sexual orientation is genetic. Many in society see homosexuality as degenerate. Members of the Bloomsbury crowd are totally open about it, however. She lists some current (at the time) scientific research into hereditarily and homosexuality. She mentions the theory that everyone is bisexual to an extent and that people contain both male and female behavior patterns. Notice this still implies that gender difference is something concrete.

The article talks about Freud and the Bloomsbury gang’s interest in his theories on homosexuality. Lytton Strachey made fun of Freudian attempts to ‘cure” gay men. It is problematic that most studies were done on men and male homosexuality. Lesbians were ignored. The feminine man is above the masculine woman in society’s hierarchy. Even in the process of expanding definition of gender, women are subjugated. Vita believed masculine and feminine parts were battling inside her. Interestingly Vita links her first sexual experience with a woman to when she wore male clothing. Discusses fusing men and women parts together to create a united whole.

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