Sunday, December 30, 2007

The NEW Homolexis

The first version of Homolexis appeared as a small book twenty-two years ago. Together with a philologically minded friend (the late, incomparable Warren Johansson), I had realized that words, their history and semantics, were essential tools that could help us to a better understanding of the conceptualization of homosexuality. By and large, the stock of words we have inherited in this realm is in no way an "objective" record of phenomena and experience. Instead, the vocabulary is loaded with assumptions, prejudices, historical myths and fabrications--and, of course, evidence of the inexhaustible wit and creativity of gay and lesbian people.

That tyro effort of 1985 became the first in my homosexual trilogy. The other two are Homosexuality: A Research Guide, and the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality.

In that first little book I had made no attempt to record the masses--thousands and thousands--of terms. That task had been attempted by Bruce Rodgers before me. There are now several Internet sites that burgeon with this repertoire. Instead, I was interested in terms with cultural significance, such as invert and sodomite, homosexual and bisexual, not to mention gay and queer. Even with this proviso, the first effort had many gaps.

Over the years I had prepared notebooks offering better coverage of the terms included in the little book, together with a selection of new terms I judged essential. I also saw that, in addition to the "atomic" approach of individual terms, I needed to approach the matter in a more synthetic ("molecular") fashion. This emphasis led to two new categories alongside the lexical entries themselves. The first are tropes, general ideas such as abjection, deviation, and pride. Then, as I strove for comparative insights, I worked up diachronic accounts of the major languages involved: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

All this is now ready (pretty much) for launching, thanks to the hard work over the last few months of the webmaster.

Turn now, if you will, to the site

Further fine-tuning will be necessary. There are always new permutations of old words. For example, a friend alerted me to the revival of "homophile," a term common in the period 1950-70, but which now has (or had) a quaint air.

Yet for many users the meaning of homophile is now somewhat different. The term functions as an antonym of the word "homophobe." Thus a homophile person is one who admires or favors gay or lesbian people, events, and values. The new homophiles are not necessarily gay themselves. Many are "gay-friendly" heterosexuals. The general tendency is called homophilia.

By the way, some of this material--including the tropes and the language profiles--appeared in the sections now archived below. Entirely new to the Glossary are the entries on individual words. What was not taken over is a set of methodological observations that were archived at the start of May 2006--"Homolexis: Prefatory Note" et seq. These pieces are somewhat technical (from a linguistic point of view), but readers may wish to consult these sections for background.


Blogger Lorna Israel said...

hi, i'm lorna israel from manila, philippines. i'm teaching queer cinema at the university of the philippines-film institute.

i find your homolexis project commendable and very helpful indeed.

3:28 PM  

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