Friday, 4 April 2008

beginning of the rest of the year....

Teaching ended about 10 days ago and I'm now returning to the research projects from which I allowed myself to be sidetracked.

First, the good news. My piece on 16th century male friendship and music has been through several revisions and will shortly be in press. It's nice to have something finished and coming out, and it's nice to have a piece on friendship for a friend, but I am a tad concerned about certain aspects. For a start, I totally sidestep the friends/lovers issue: these homoerotic 'true friendships' are now part of the history of (homo)sexuality as much as they are part of the history of friendship. I feel I should have addressed the issue because by ignoring it I think I might be taken as promoting heterosexism which is not my intention at all. However inadvertent, that might be the result. I suppose that's the problem with privilege—for those who are straight, it is too easy to forget to address these issues, or to miss the political significance of a particular angle. And that is what concerns me. I wasn't thinking critically enough about the political implications of that piece--or at least, not in as many ways as I could have done. It has a postscript in which I reflect upon certain ideological issues, but I ignored that one. I agonised over it in private discussions, but these were not reflected in the written work.

So, what are some of the issues?

Well, the historian part of me says that the male-male relationship I focus on was described in its own time as a 'true friendship' and briefly explains some of what that meant at the time. The historian acknowledges that language of 'true friendship' is and was homoerotic, and in the 16th c. that kind of language and that kind of friendship could be interpreted as sexual. So I come down on all sides of the fence. But I don't explicitly say something I might have said: there's no reason to believe that the men were or were not having a sexual relationship, and there probably isn't going to be evidence either way.

I suppose what I'm concerned about is that I just avoid/ignore the debate over terminology for human relationships past and present. Same-sex relationships existed, but there is considerable uncertainty about terminology, the nature of these relationships etc. I'm all for accepting and acknowledging difference, yet what strikes me about this particular case is that there is no such argument against heterosexuality existing in the 16th century. It seems to me, though, that if there wasn't such a thing as homosexuality as we understand it today, then there wasn't such a thing as heterosexuality either, and of course that also suggests that friendship as we know it today was different too--and the archetype of 'true friendship' really doesn't seem to have a modern equivalent. (But then, I am quite tired and perhaps I'm just not firing on all cylinders. I have a cold. My back hurts. There are many distractions.)

That said, I'm reading (still) Guido Ruggiero's book on Machiavelli in which he argues that actually homosexuality did exist.

Now, the not-so-good news. I'm waaaaaaay behind with work for the other book chapter I'm writing at the moment. Waaaay behind. And I don't currently have access to the materials I need to see to complete that.

And other projects are nagging at me: two or three articles have been on the back burner for several years (I am mortified) that I want to submit to peer-reviewed journals; and two book reviews (one a joint review with a colleague). And there's the vexing question of whether I should propose an edited collection from a conference I organised.

Ugh. Now I'm going to feel real guilty. That's a recipe for a really good night's sleep.

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