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Re: [ANE-2] Sexual Orientation and the ANE

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  • Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
    Dear David, I am far from certain that the Apuleian tale of the milar/baker, his unfaithful wife and the younger lover showcases a same-sex attraction by the
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 26, 2009
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      Dear David,

      I am far from certain that the Apuleian tale of the milar/baker, his unfaithful wife and the younger lover showcases a same-sex attraction by the husband : to sodomise the man with whom your wife has cheated is withing both your rights and your prerogatives as a wronged husband and one of the recognised Greco-Roman ways to punish an adulterer. Since the action degrades the lover while asserting the husband's own superior male status (same thing goes for the whipping which will take place after the lovemaking between the milar and the youth), the issue in Apuleius may safely be presumed to revolve around the restoration of social order by the humiliation of the unfaithful man. The milar's parting shot, that the youth is a shared property between himself and his wife to be split between the two when they get a divorce should not be assigned more weight than it deserves - it a meant as a conceit. The story in Boccaccio is imbued with very different notions about marriage and sexuality ; there the stress lays on the husband's awareness of his sexual likes. For this interpretation of the two tales, see Victor Schmidt, 'Ein Trio im Bett : Tema con variazioni bei Catull, Martial, Babrius und Apuleius', Groningen Colloquium on the Novel 2 (Groningen, 1989), pp. 63-72 on 71-72 ; Jonathan Walters, ''No More Than a Boy' : The Shifting Construction of Masculinity from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages', Gender and History 5.1, 1993, pp. 20-33 ; D. M. Halperin, in M. C. Nussbaum and Julia Sihvola (edd.), "The Sleep of Reason. Erotic Experience and Sexual Ethics in Ancient Greece and Rome" (Chicago, 2002), pp. 34-38 (all three in substantial agreement). To borrow from Halperin, I would say that "in Apuleius's tale the husband's enjoyment of the wife's lover is an incidental component of his revenge and does not express any special or distinctive sxual taste on his part, much less a habitual preference, whereas in Boccaccio's tale the husband is identified as the subject of deviant sexual desires and is only too happy to exploit his wife's infidelity for the purposes of his own pleasure" (p. 37). Let us try to study the ancient texts within the intellectual and social setting of their epoch and disallow any kind of ideological stuffing, to which Boswell was so partial.

      J.-F. Nardelli
      Université de Provence.


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