(4/4/04 2:36 pm)
curses & queers|
I've been asked to write a monologue for a local production of The Queer Monologues, and I'd like to do some research on curses - their nature, their form, their place in cultures' self-understanding - for the piece I'm working on. My general line of thought jumps from sexual references as "curse" words to curses themselves as sources of power, and then to the power of the words we use to name ourselves.
Does anyone have favorite resources to point me to? Online, in print, whatever. I don't have a lot of time to write this so I'd like to jump-start my research, and I figured other fairy tale/fantastical fiction aficionados would be the ideal group mind to query!
(4/4/04 8:42 pm)
Re: curses & queers|
I don't know what The Queer Monologues is/are. Would you post and tell me about them? I'd be interested.
On the general topic of sexuality and cursing, you might want to
take a look at Katherine Houppert's The Curse, a cultural
history of menstruation. It will talk a bit about the history of
women's bodies as "cursed."
Curses in Renaissance witch trials (i.e. the kinds of things that
witches were accused of doing) tended to be crimes against fertility,
making crops fail, cows dry up, "manhood" wither, that
kind of thing, and the accused during the Renaissance tended to
be associated w/infertility (poverty-stricken old women). Deborah
Willis's Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power
in Early Modern England is the single best work on the Renaissance
witch-hunts that I know.
You could also think about the "curse" of Eve--pain in childbirth--and how that affects cultural understandings of female sexuality, i.e. the idea that pain is somehow appropriate for women, which is why it was such a big deal when Queen Victoria decided to accept ether as anesthetic during labor. Or Pandora as a curse--the sexually enchanting woman who was probably originally a fertility goddess transformed into a curse on mankind which brought death into the world, thus necessitating the birth of children (again, childbirth as curse).
That's the kind of stuff that jumps into my mind, but I'm aware that it's far more focused on women and the female body than on queer-ness. But maybe something could be a jumping off point?
(4/5/04 11:19 am)
Re: curses & queers|
Well, while I don't tend to focus on queer studies, I have two potentially
helpful tidbits to offer: the first actually comes to me from a
fictive source, so you might want to double-check it. In her lovely
retelling of "The Seven Swans, The Wild Swans, Peg
Kerr discusses the etymology of the word "faggot," linking
it to the witch burnings, as homosexuals were frequently used to
initiate the proceedings (a root which might also explain the additions
of intensifiers such as "flaming"). On a similar note,
you might also want to consider the question of "fairy"
as an epithet: I'm not sure of its roots in this context, but I
think that it might be related the the bowdlerized versions of fairy
tales popularized during the 19th century, which depicted the fay
as being somwhat harmless and effeminate, two qualities which also
attached themselves to masculine same-sex orientation. This can
also be seen in some of the literature which concerns gay subculture
(i.e., the green scarf), although I think that there, it's really
more a case of "reclaiming" than anything else. Unless
my memory if faulty, I also believe that Susan Brown-Miller addresses
this issue in The Politics of Rape, in her discussion of
the methods of subjugation applied to victims of same-sex assualt
(specifically in the chapter on prison culture) though this may
be too far off-base for what you're looking for. Sorry that I couldn't
be of more assistance!
(4/5/04 1:54 pm)
Wonderful stuff - thank you both for your recommendations. All your ideas provided me with wonderful fodder.
Helen - your recommendation to explore the term "fairy" as epithet was like a cosmic "that's it!" Thank you!!
Veronica - The Queer Monologues are a kind of Vagina Monologues spin-off that a couple of friends of mine - both of them lesbians and professors with focus on gender and queer studies - are putting together. The first production will be here in Orlando, and then they'll probably take it on the road. They just asked me to write a piece for it last week, so everything is still in development. If you want more information & updates, let me know (bethadele -at symbol- sff -dot- net) and I'll certainly keep you informed!
(4/5/04 2:35 pm)
Thanks for cluing me in, and I'm glad to hear that the suggestions are helpful!
I believe that the use of "fairy" as a slang word come from its nineteenth-century use as slang for streetwalker/prostitute. So in the 1890s song "The Belle of Avenoo A," (my own home turf), the lady sings "I'm somethin' of a walker, / And de fact dat I'm a 'Corker' / Is de talk ov ev'ry copper on de beat....Bill McNeil he is me steady,....And he says of all de fairies / I'm de only one he tinks is out o'sight." That's not to say that the slang "fairy" couldn't have had anything to do w/the Victorian dimunition of fairies, but I believe it got to gay men via prostitutes.
That makes it sound like a sexually transmitted disease, but you know what I mean, right?
Edited to add: I'd love to be kept up w/what's going on w/the Queer Monologues--my email address is in my profile. If it gets to Philadelphia or NYC before September, when I'm skipping the country, please let me know!
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 4/5/04 2:47 pm
(4/5/04 8:46 pm)
Ooohhh, yes, that actually makes perfect sense, and fills in a gap:
in her lovely book, Strange and Secret Peoples: Victorian Fairy
Consciousness, Carol G. Silver points out that many child prostitutes
were employed in theaters under the guise of playing sprites or
fairies ... so, from there to the mature prostitutes to the "obviously"
promiscuous gay men. Scholarship is fun when you've got all of the