Two reviews of The Greeks and Greek Love

Two reviews of a new book by James Davidson, who argues for a reappraisal of Greek homosexuality:

Homophilia, same-sex love, is for Davidson “serious, permanent and real”. So it is central to his mission to refute both the claim that “homosexuality” is a modern notion, and the associated thesis that in ancient Greece it was nothing to do with orientation, but was just a matter of the power of the penetrator and the subjugation of the penetratee – “sodomania”. He argues with fervour, often verging on contempt, that the whole caboodle comes from an unholy alliance in the late 1970s between an English classical scholar and a French sage. Kenneth Dover was (and is) dedicated to discovering the truth and to calling a spade a spade; Michel Foucault was as dedicated to showing how what masquerades as “truth” is merely a construct, a means for exerting and perpetuating power. They could both agree, however, that Greek pederasty was all about the machismo of being the penetrator and inflicting humiliation on the subjected receptacle, the pathic anus.

This is the description from the Guardian, the more reasonable of the reviews. Putting aside for the moment that weasel-word that truth is “merely” constructed (as noted here before) I think Foucault’s argument was more complex if you also look at his later “Greek” writing (and not just the power material).

Compare this then if you will with the bilious comments from that great newspaper, the Telegraph:

I loved his demolition of the presumptuousness of Kenneth Dover (a prurient closet case) and Michel Foucault (a self-loathing sado-masochist)

I suppose in their world, anyone who trangresses outside the bounds of what they think is “normal” love just has to be self-loathing!

Anyway an interesting looking book:

It is an epic rhapsody in praise of what James Davidson calls (with a characteristic coinage) “homobesottedness”. While bringing out the huge variety of homophilic phenomena in the Greek world, his persistent leitmotifs are the social bridging, the elevated aspirations and the lasting devotion that were the blessings of homobesottedness. His mission is to rehabilitate Greek same-sex love, to rescue it from all the slurs, the associations with unnaturalness, sickness, promiscuity, dirty furtiveness. He sets out to dispel the smut, the orgasm-centred gropings and pokings, above all to obliterate the modern obsession with what he calls “sodomania”: besotted does not mean besodding.


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