lotesse: (Holmes/Watson)
I found an amazingly terribly book at the uni library. No, seriously. Terrible. Far too bad not to share.

It's called In Bed With Sherlock Holmes: Sexual Elements in Arthur Conan Doyle's Stories of The Great Detective. It was written by a gentleman with a lovely string of alphabet soup after his name on the title page: Christopher Redmond, B.A., M.A. It's funny, because the book isn't published by an academic press, so the credential-waving just comes off as pathetic. B.A.? Don't knock yourself over patting yourself on the back there, dood. Lots of people have gone to college.

Despite the prose, this book was written in 1984. It reads like something from 1948.

Have some choice passages!

from Chapter VI: Sherlock Holmes in Love:

“The first of such [stories about damsels in distress] begins with the words 'my dear fellow,' which may be said to suggest a return, after the exotic and heterosexual flights of the Irene Adler business, to the cosy bachelor life of Holmes and Watson” - because there's nothing sexy going on at Baker Street, oh hell naw.

Of “The Speckled Band”: “Miss Stoner's exaggerated feminine qualities and Holmes' macho behavior contribute to the story's effectiveness” - macho? Really?

From Chapter IX: A World Without Women:

“The sexual activities and motives discussed so far have been heterosexual. One would not call them all normal, extending as they do to rape, flagellation, and other antisocial behavior (!), but they are all derived from the originally normal attraction of men for women and women for men (!!). Homosexual matters are much less obviously present in the Sherlock Holmes stories, but since homosexuality is a part of human life, and the stories are meant to be a reflection of human life, some evidence of it is likely to be found there.”

“[Queer] analysis, though it may sounds both far-fetched and distasteful, is supported by many details in the story …. It will certainly appear far-fetched to use it as the basis for an allegation (!!!!!) that Holmes is drawn as a homosexual, or that Doyle deliberately wrote a story with homosexual motifs.” I mean. Distasteful? Allegation? Faugh!

Of the “worth a wound” scene: “It can be called nothing but a love scene. For years, of course, Sherlockians have enjoyed the joke that Watson was a woman or, perhaps, Holmes was. Aside from such comic suggestions, do the characters, after all, emerge as active or latent homosexuals? …. the bald fact is that the detective and his partner are not portrayed as homosexuals” - I'm not sure if the har har they're gay thing or the paternalistic it's the facts attitude hacks me off more. But this passage is pretty much everything wrong with dudely Sherlockian scholarship. Gag.

The chapter then maunders off into Freud and castration and I don't even, finally coming to an end with this jewel: “The final chapter turns from the less pleasant sexual topics of this chapter to the most pleasant sexual topic of all: successful, even sometimes happy, heterosexual love and marriage.”

There are not enough interrobangs in the world.

Man, I don't get it. How does this rubbish get printed - and why does no one want to write a book about how Sherlock Holmes is kinda gay?! All joking aside, I am really rather shocked that this kind of heterosexist tripe is both contemporarily printed and housed in my University library – why, IU, why? It always shocks me a bit to find this kind of prejudice in ostensibly academic contexts. I'm so much a child of the nineties that I'm awfully used to feminist/queer crit being borderline passe.

Also – I would dearly love to see a study on doodly criticism of commonly-queered books. The panicked anxious masculinity in Mr. Redmond's writing has some very interesting psychosexual implications. But then you'd have to deal with their fapping, and really, who wants to?

FWIW, I've also been reading - and tremendously enjoying - Graham Robb's Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century. Not only does he win my heart right off the bat by giving the diss to some of the more extreme strains of Foucauldian sexual theory, but his book might be the gentlest, sweetest book I've ever read about sexual "deviancy." He goes beyond law and medicine to talk about actual queer lives, in the process re-discovering the fact that queer relationships can involve love as well as sex. It's a heartbreaking book, as all books of its kind are bound to be, but it's also surprisingly romantic.

Date: 26 Apr 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

I haven't even read your post yet but OH GOD NO NO NO ... I saw excerpts from it on Google Books and looked at the chapter on homosexuality and it was all "abnormal" and "unpleasant" and "aberrant" and AUGH. And then it was all about the Freudian aspects of ACD's personal life, or some such shit, and didn't even touch on the H/W subtext or anything.

I was going to write an anti-rec of it myself, in fact, but I guess you've beaten me to it. And now I will actually read your post ;)

Date: 26 Apr 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)
Ha ha, and now I've actually read your post! Big YES to everything you say about Redmond's fapping.

And I, too, am reading "Strangers" at present, and was going to review and rec it as "19th century gay life: not all that bad, actually!" I agree that it's quite sweet and optimistic.

Have you read Harry Cocks' "Unnamed Offenses"? It's interesting, but I'm only just getting started and couldn't really characterise it clearly. It's mostly talking about the "unspeakable crime" and how unspeakability/unnamability/secrecy/privacy/repression/expression all work to, um, kind of implicitly create space for homosexual practices in the 19th century even as they deny their existence. If I'm understanding it right from the first chapter or so, which I may not be.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 02:34 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] kyriacarlisle
kyriacarlisle: still life: books and glasses (books)
I don't know. What about my favorite woodwind instruction manual: The Other Flute, by Robert Dick?

Date: 27 Apr 2010 02:36 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

Date: 27 Apr 2010 07:16 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] legionseagle
legionseagle: (Default)
I heard Cocks lecture recently and I'd be interested to hear what you think of the book.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] legionseagle
legionseagle: (Default)
A bit "Meh" to be honest. It was on "the Bolton Whitmanites" at the Working Class Movement Library and I rather felt I'd been lured in under false pretences; I was hoping it would be about being an aesthete and/or homo- or bi-sexual in a working class industrial environment at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Instead it was focussed very narrowly on this upper middle class/ professional class bunch of friends who had a passionate shared liking for Whitman and a prediliction to going to bed with each other when their wives had gone off to the Menai Straits (I sincerely hoped with hot-blooded paramours whom they were shagging like bunnies; Cocks' lack of any interest in or analysis concerning the wives and what they might have thought about it was one of the "meh" bits about it). They agonised in letters to each others about how horrific it was when people read dodgy meanings into the pure spirituality of Whitman's verse, so I was forced to conclude that either the bed-hopping was 19th Real People Smarm or that they protesteth too much. But it was a bit lacking in point and, as I said, the family and working lives were just airbrushed out, so you only got to see them in their (somewhat narcissistic) focus on each other.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] legionseagle
legionseagle: (Default)
Yes; look at poor old Constance, treated like absolute shit not merely by her husband but by practically every scholar who's touched the subject since.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 07:55 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] oursin
oursin: Photograph of James Miranda Barry, c. 1850 (James Miranda Barry)
I possibly liked this book slightly more than it deserved because it was taking Sedgewickian analysis and applying it to something other than literary texts into which the determined scholar can read pretty much anything. And I had at that point been saying, yes, I like Sedgewick's ideas but I wish someone would apply them to primary historical source material like court reports, which Cocks did.

Incidentally the title is Nameless Offences. (I may add, any argument based around that notion of uniquely unspeakable breaks down slightly when one discovers the expression was not unique to reporting male-male sex but also cases of sexual assault on children.)

Date: 27 Apr 2010 07:58 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)
Nameless, yes, thanks! (I was at the office, sans book, when I wrote my comment. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

Date: 27 Apr 2010 02:02 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] torachan
torachan: (Default)
Oh man, that sounds SO BAD. D:

I am about 2/3 of the way through Strangers and I love it SO MUCH. Especially the way he thoroughly debunks the "no one IDed as queer back then" stuff and how he really does present a pretty positive look at things.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] phosfate
phosfate: (Bollocks! Hamster)
If no one identified as queer, there wouldn't have been such a moral panic over the very idea. Or, for that matter, laws against it.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)
There were no laws against identifying as queer, though! There were laws against homosexual acts: buggery, "indecent assault", etc.

The Foucauldian position, as I understand it (secondhand, because I haven't read his stuff directly) is that prior to the late 19th century, there were homosexual *acts* but not homosexual *identity*, and that the creation of the term/concept "homosexual" by the medical world ca. 1870 more or less created homosexuality as we understand it: a way of being, rather than a thing that one does. "Strangers" debunks this by citing a lot of pre-1870 descriptions of the "type of person" (even if the word "homosexual" isn't used).

It also debunks the "moral panic" thing, too... the number of arrests and convictions for homosexuality (per 100k of population) were very low, *far* lower than in the 20th century, despite a few very highly publicised cases (Vere St, Cleveland St, Oscar Wilde, etc), and the sentences for homosexual offenses became increasingly lenient throughout that time while the standards of evidence became stricter. Even the Labouchere Amendment, which explicitly outlawed homosexual acts between men "in private or public" (the first to mention private acts explicitly) didn't cause any kind of spike in arrests or convictions... the only really clear spike you see in the graph is in 1955.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] legionseagle
legionseagle: (Default)
One of the most interesting bits of my family law course at University was the set of cases on annulment and the light it cast upon "what everyone knows" about Victorian sexuality. I remember one annulment case in particular where counsel for the husband admitted that his client had been "inclined" to "certain acts" at some point in his adolescence but had abjured it on realising its evils* before he could possibly have done himself any lasting harm. At which point the learned judge observed, somewhat cynically, that the fact of the husband having left off masturbation so easily having taking it up inclined him to the wife's argument that the husband had no or limited sexual interest.

*The husband was arguing that the wife's case that he had bugger all interest in consummating the marriage and not much aptitude, either was wrong, since he was a healthy, decent, upstanding young Englishman of the right sort

Date: 27 Apr 2010 02:47 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] starlady
starlady: holmes holds his spyglass against watson's chest (intimacy)
Ugh. I would simply say "BRB laughing forever" and write it off, but whatever Redmond's delusions his...manuscript...is clearly symptomatic of larger problems. I don't think anyone worth their salt in the academy would take him seriously, precisely, but as you say his attitudes are shared by people who do have the worthwhile letters after their names. Blech.

On the other hand, Strangers sounds pretty great.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] starlady
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
I am nothing without my academic snobbery disguised as sarcasm.

But seriously, "book" and "text" are far too noble, as terms, in this case.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 02:54 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] amelia-petkova.livejournal.com
I'm not much in the Sherlock Homes fandom but I got to the title "In Bed With Sherlock Holmes" and immediately had flashbacks to this YouTube clip. I howl with laughter every time I watch it.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 05:19 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] anthimeria
anthimeria: Comic book panels (Sequential Art)
Love the crit--I've run into books like that, and attitudes like that, and your sentence There are not enough interrobangs in the world describes my reaction nicely! I may have to start using that phrase IRL.

Hmm, also may have to see if I can track down Strangers. Not having an accessible academic library is sometimes distressing!

Date: 27 Apr 2010 06:29 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] yan-tan-tether.livejournal.com
ext_30599: (Default)
I saw the Redmond book in the Holmes museum when I was there at the weekend, I'm glad I read your post so I know not to bother picking it up!

And I love Strangers.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] yan-tan-tether.livejournal.com
ext_30599: (Default)
It's in a case with other books about Holmes, in a room full of hilarifying waxworks!

Date: 27 Apr 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] ilthit
ilthit: (Default)
:D The amount of rubbish that is printed is astounding. Sometimes it seems as if it just takes a vaguely tempting title, which goes no way to explain why actually good writers have so much trouble getting published.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] phosfate
phosfate: (Default)
If it helps, a lot Holmesiana on offer now is self-published/print on demand.

Date: 27 Apr 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)
But is any of it any good? If so, recs?

linked from kanata

Date: 27 Apr 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] wrabbit
wrabbit: (stock: tophat sexing)
If I didn't laugh I would cry XD I just got Strangers from the library. Next time I'm going see if they have the Redmond book so I can deface it :D

daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin


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