Friday, May 19, 2006

Homolexis: Prefatory Note

It is said that homosexual behavior is a riddle. Perhaps so, but that status is a cultural construct, representing the tabooing, discrimination, and fear-mongering that Western society has imposed on one of humanity's inescapable and essential capacities: same-sex love. Part of that cultural burden stems from language.

Together with most people who concern themselves with the deeper aspects of the subject, early on I became interested in the matter of language. These studies yielded a sketch, published twenty years ago as Homolexis (out of print). Even at the time I realized that this little book was a mere beachhead, a tentative claim to a continent, and that it must give way to a better, more organic account. After accumulating many notes and consulting colleagues who were involved in similar endeavors (there were very few of these), I decided to abandon the A-Z format as too atomistic. The dictionary-style presentation separated things that belonged together, while juxtaposing other themes that had no connection. I realized that words formed clusters, somewhat in the manner of Roget's Thesaurus, and that in most cases these clusters were ruled by dominant tropes--metaphors, ideological motifs, and common themes. By treating these individually, as I do in the main part of this book (designated as II, followed by a number), I could bring out relationships. The procedure would also throw light on what terms were destined to survive and why. (The field is littered with "evolutionary failures," from Urning to isophyl, not to mention thousands of nonce terms. The latter are the product of the well-known gay propensity for wit. However, wittiness does not a permanent vocabulary item make.)

I frankly concede that the methodology I have adopted herein is experimental. Perhaps it is more eccentric than innovative. That is for others to judge. The format allows for comment at the end of each of the sixty sections.

It is unusual to utilize the Blogger format to present a book in the manner that I have. Yet it seems to work. I should note that I have had some trouble with the mechanism for indicated italic (for book titles mainly) and bold (for the terms). This is particularly true in the opening section of the Introduction, where some glitch has occurred. I urge the reader's patience. Remember too, that this text is a draft. Some sections are still too skimpy--"stubs" more than finished accounts. But Ganymede willing, in due course I will get around to repairing these lacunae.

This book is dedicated to the memory of my mentor Warren Johansson.

Wayne R. Dynes
Emeritus Professor of Art History, Hunter College.


Blogger buff said...

This is quite appropriate, as Gay Pride events are being organized in the coming weeks.

Always being exposed to our history, in any form, is a good way to celebrate our pride.

Thanks for sharing.

9:11 AM  

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