A comprehensive anthropological survey exploring the ways in which the gay community has changed the world.
In 1895, Oscar Wilde set a precedent that would change the lives of homosexual men all over Europe—and, eventually, the world. Accused of having same-sex relations, he was prosecuted and sent to jail. Most men accused of homosexual acts would have denied the fact, but Wilde did not. This choice set an example that defined new terms for the inner life of the artist, the aesthete, and, more importantly, the European gay man. It spurred the rise of the modernist sensibilities and underground communities in Paris and Berlin. The universal appeal of the Wilde case also led to conspiracy theories about homosexuals. As Woods (Emeritus, Gay and Lesbian Studies/Nottingham Trent Univ.; The Myth of the Last Taboo: Queer Subcultural Studies, 2015, etc.) explains, “to speak of homosexual internationalism was…to conjure up the threat of subversive conspiracy. In this case, however, the Homintern was understood to be conspiring against the Comintern, rather than in league with it.” This conspiracy, however irrational it may seem, fueled the decadence of the 1920s and ’30s and allowed homosexual men to travel from Russia to Paris and from Paris to Berlin to Capri and beyond. As a result, artists and writers formulated a new, cross-cultural art practice: “Values previously taken for granted were deliberately being subverted; rules of perspective and harmony, even of logic, were deliberately being flouted; standards of decency and good taste were deliberately being violated.” Woods delivers a well-researched, compelling study of how countless gay men have affected, influenced, and restructured the cultural climate for more than 100 years. He also addresses diversity and remains objective, all the while slipping in some personal opinions about political climates across the generations.
An information-heavy book that provides a wonderful resource for those interested in learning about the rise of gay poetics at the onset of the 20th century.