The Homosexual Revival of Renaissance Style, 1850-1930 by Y. Ivory

By Y. Ivory

Why have been such a lot of late-nineteenth-century homosexuals enthusiastic about the Italian Renaissance? This booklet solutions that query by means of exhibiting how the Victorian coupling of criminal activity with self-fashioning below the signal of the Renaissance supplied queer intellectuals with a permanent version of ruthlessly permissive individualism.

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Extra info for The Homosexual Revival of Renaissance Style, 1850-1930 (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture)

Example text

Cruickshank in their preface to The Umbrian Cities of Italy, part of the ‘Travel Lovers’ Library’ series created by noted Victorian critic Grant Allen: comprised the elimination of the ‘natural’ aspect of production through a new insistence on ‘universal perfection’, reducing the laborer (who had previously been an active participant in the creative process) to the status of ‘copyist’. 43 The Renaissance is for Ruskin the triumph of form over content. What is vilified by Ruskin—formulaic aestheticization—is treated in more measured tones by Jacob Burckhardt.

Degeneration explains such a long period of ruthlessness most neatly, and makes immediate sense to the late nineteenth-century intellectual. 115 Degeneration occurred because [t]he strain of tyranny proved too strong. Crime, illegality, and the sense of peril, descending from father to son, produced monsters in the shape of men. 116 As subsequent generations of great families infected one another in the physical process of degeneration, so too did the influence of these families on their subjects infect the minds and morals of the age.

Just as defenders of the Renaissance sought to relativize the barbarity of the era by emphasizing the great heights reached by a culture dedicated to progress at all costs, they also produced excellent defenses for the proliferation of non-conventional sexual activities practiced during the period. Key among these is the argument (put forward most strongly by Burckhardt and seconded by Symonds) that the greatness of Renaissance Italians lay in their extraordinarily well-developed Phantasie, or imaginative faculty, a faculty whose one negative effect was to make them more experimental in the area of illicit sexuality than their predecessors, their contemporaries elsewhere in Europe, or their successors.

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