Lambda Classical Caucus
A Coalition of Queer Classicists and Allies


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Unspeakable Vices: Classical Studies and Queer Identity, APA 2005
Kristina Milnor, Organizer

"Omit: a reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks", one Oxford don orders his undergraduates reading Plato in E.M. Forster's Maurice. The episode is a famous one, not just because it shows the distaste with which some Victorians viewed Greek pederasty, but because of its futility: although the young men to whom it was addressed omit the passage in translating for class, they read it avidly on their own as a model and legitimizing history for their own sexual desires. Indeed, the erotic practices of antiquity have long both titillated and tormented scholars, for whom the classical Greeks and Romans might exemplify at once the best and the worst that cultured societies have to offer. From Greek pederasty to Roman decadence, from the "lesbian" love expressed in Sappho to the marriage of Saints Serge and Bacchus, from naked classical sculpture to homoerotic graffiti from Pompeii, classical antiquity has provided much material for those seeking an originary site for queer identities and desires in the post-classical world. This panel, then, will discuss some of the ways in which antiquity has been used to represent, expose and explore "alternative" sexual identities from the Middle Ages through the modern day.

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