by John Boswell
Paperback - Reprint edition (June 1995)
Boswell (History/Yale; Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, not reviewed) convincingly establishes that, from ancient times to the 18th century, throughout Christian Europe, same-sex union rituals honored a form of "gay marriage." Working from church manuscripts, mainly in ancient Greek, that describe the ceremonies, Boswell carefully traces the historical context in which these practices occurred, exploring premodern beliefs about love and marriage, both gay and heterosexual. Past historians encountering these manuscripts have usually interpreted the same-sex ceremonies as honoring a spiritual bond or friendship, rather than a marriage equivalent. Boswell argues these readings overlook the ceremonies' striking resemblances to heterosexual nuptials in terms of the vows as well as the use of symbolic objects such as crosses, veils, crowns, and sometimes swords. In addition, both heterosexual and same-sex ceremonies usually involved the joining of right hands. He maintains that when other historians have neglected these parallels, they have done so out of a combination of homophobia and fear. Same-Sex Unions represents extraordinary scholarship, copiously detailing premodern rituals, laws, and value systems. The footnotes are as absorbing as the text, often providing crucial context or opposing viewpoints. Boswell is admirably attuned to the elusive subtleties of language and the dilemmas of translation, especially when it comes to matters of the heart; we are apprised of the multiple meanings and possible nuances of Greek words for friend, lover, kiss, brother, companion, etc. Appendices contain the original ceremony texts, accompanied by Boswell's translations. Also included is a translation of "The Passion of Serge and Bacchus," a story of love between two late-third-century Christian martyrs, which was frequently invoked in same-sex union ceremonies. Well worth the attention of anyone with a serious interest in the social and spiritual history of love and marriage. -- © 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
SEXUALITY AND THE BODY IN RUSSIAN CULTURE
by Jane T. Costlow (Editor), Stephanie Sandler (Editor), Judith Vowles (Editor)
Paperback - 372 pages Reprint edition (June 1999)
This comprehensive publication is an indispensable tool for any researcher in the field of Russian sexuality in general and Russian gay sexuality in particular. The editor did a huge work collecting essays from authors of different origins, backgrounds, and viewpoints to present them under this cover.
Scholarly papers follow personal anecdotes here, but that does not prevent the structure book from being logical and easy to read. It is worth noting that the book is cited as a reference source in all other books presented on this page.
THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA: FROM THE AGE OF THE CZARS TO TODAY
by Igor Semyonovich Kon, James Riordan (Translator)
Hardcover - 337 pages (June 1995)
Kon started his academic career with degrees in history and philosophy. He reached his present eminence as Russia's foremost sexologist (something he reluctantly admits) through his work in ethnography and anthropology, and his books remain the only nonmedical books on sex available in Russia. From the furtive character of nineteenth-century Russian erotica (overlaid with peasant prudery and reflecting attitudes then prevalent throughout Europe) to the brief explosion of liberalism after the revolution to the gray puritanism of the Soviets, Russian states have done their best to eliminate sex as a subject for public discourse. Kon has done a yeoman's job in pulling together information from many disparate and sometimes sketchy sources to provide a history of sexual attitudes and behavior in Russia in the twentieth century. Although he apologizes for intruding personal anecdotal evidence into a scholarly work, these supposed intrusions add an engaging human dimension to the data. --Dennis Winters, Booklist
Read the edited chapter on the Russian gay history generously contributed by Professor Kon >>