Not Again! Homoeroticism in Lit Class (And why the discussion is valuable)

So every time I have ever discussed a Shakespeare in a collegiate-level course, someone inevitably makes the argument that two of the (usually male) characters have some kind of homosexual or (more often) homoerotic relationship. Now I’m not going to dive into that mess of a discussion, which can involve tons of history, theory, critical discussion, etc., but I will say that up until now I’ve rather detested those discussions. Because it seems like they’re just a really easy way to make a wave.

And while that may still be true, I just realized something that has nothing to do with accuracy in regards to whether or not two of Shakespeare’s characters had homosexual tendencies or not. Because, on a practical level, that’s completely irrelevant. For one, there’s literally no way to know because a) Shakespeare is dead and b) the concept of homosexuality as we have it today did not exist (and he wouldn’t be able to speak on it).

However, all of those discussions we had DO pose a far, far, far, far, FAR more interesting question: how do we, in our modern society, interpret (same or mixed) gender interactions? I mean, if we can say “this activity by this character suggests that those two men have some sexual tension going on,” then something in our own modern society has to back that up. Because we don’t have a history book from 1500 that says “in our society friends behave in this manner and friends-with-benefits act in this way towards one another.” All we have is our own perception, based in our own society. And, like every generation before and to come, what we are doing in this discussion is self-reflecting, negotiating, seeking to understand ourselves and our society. And possibly seeking to re-negotiate what that really means.

And now I wonder what other discussions in English Lit I’ve checked out of off-hand.


Beginning Again

My last “real” year of school is about to start and I can’t help reflecting on how strange it is. Some people learn nothing in college. Others only learn about non-academic things (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Some only learn academic things, and I think there you might be missing out on some of the richest stuff.

For me, so far, college has been less about learning “things” and more about becoming myself. I think that should really be everyone’s goal and whether that’s through college or something else, I critic society for trying to force us into anything else.

When I tell people I’m an English major, everyone responds, “So you want to be a teacher?” As if English is good for nothing but teaching English. Which really doesn’t make sense given the fact that we teach English in school and don’t expect any of those kids to become teachers. We study it because there are valuable lessons to be learned. I study it because I love it. It is a part of me. It makes me more of myself. And that’s what I love about this next year. I get to continue becoming myself.

Which is kind of terrifying isn’t it?


Never in my life would I have said that freedom wasn’t a good thing. I was born an American, it’s in my blood to value freedom as one of the greatest things in the world. And yet in that same country, we are not free. We pressure each other to submit to this or this worldview and discount the other side entirely when their idea doesn”t entirely work out, as if this is proof that they are wrong. Wrong as a person, as someone who believes something. Wrong because they, as a person, are not right. Because in our society we have this strange idea that one thing is wrong and one thing is right and that’s just how it is.

Freedom is the ability to be yourself without pressure from others. You cannot force me to believe as you do. Christians cannot make a world of Christians by decrying the actions of others, fundamentalists cannot make heaven on earth by creating hell, Republicans and Democrats cannot make their side dominant by decrying the other side as totally wrong about everything.

The most beautiful thing about every person is their experience and perspective. Each person brings an entirely new perspective to every situation and, my God, how glorious is that? As someone too often trapped by their own perspective, how amazing it is that each person has some knowledge to impart on a situation that is possibly completely different than your own?

Freedom is the ability to express that wonderful thing that is You, Yourself. That wonderful creation. I’ve heard many a Christian tout the wonder that is your individuality. The fact that God cared enough to make you, and to make you just as you are. And more than that, God calls you to be your own fullest self. To “die” for Christ is to receive your own life because when you let go of your own desires and start listening, you find what God really made you to be.

So who wouldn’t fight for the ability to be yourself? Can you really live when you are someone else? No wonder people revolt and fight for freedom, because honestly why wouldn’t you if someone took away You?

The sanctity of You as a person is the reason so many things are important. Equality of the sexes, for one. Objectify someone into something you want them to be, all because it is more convenient for you? Come, come. People are not objects. They are living souls with so many things to offer, so much knowledge to share, so much love to give. We are all people. Full of pain, struggle and love. And we should be free to be ourselves.

I will leave this quote with you from Leonardo Da Vinci. “If this outer body of Man seems to you to be so marvelously worked, consider that it is nothing; next to the soul that formed it. In truth, regardless of what they are, it is always something divine that they embody.*”

*translated by myself. Original quote found in the Clos Lucé. “Si cette dépouille extérieur de l’homme te paraît marveilleusement ouvragée, considère qu’elle n’est rien; auprès de l’âme qui l’a formée. En vérité, quel que soit l’homme, c’est toujours quelque chose de divine que l’homme incorpore.”