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jaime



Joined: 23 Sep 2011
Posts: 525

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I noticed some posters referring to "slash" and m/m fiction as the same thing - I always thought "slash" meant slashing two male characters with each other when both are usually straight in the canon source.

In the romance genre I read mostly straight-up (ha, ha) m/f. But in general fiction I have read and enjoyed gay themed books. My first exposure as a teenager to gay fiction was Mary Renault's "The Persian Boy" and "The Charioteer" - I loved both and found them very compelling and romantic.

The thing about the m/m genre is that a lot of it is written by straight and lesbian women and meant to be enjoyed by straight women and lesbians. I doubt the average straight man or gay man gets a lot out of the genre.

Indeed, I know one gay man in real life who thinks women ought to not be writing m/m at all because "they don't know what gay men are actually like".
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Blackjack1



Joined: 21 Feb 2011
Posts: 783
Location: Portland, OR

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure about genre writing as I'm not as familiar with it as I am with general fiction, but there is certainly a growing body of work by gay and lesbian authors in general fiction. Heterosexual authors too often portray gay and lesbian characters, and vice versa. The ability to transcend one's own experiences is an artistic license and I find that it's best to judge each piece of writing on its own terms. If, for example, a straight author mismanaged her gay characters, then that author should be challenged for that problem. Likewise, if a heterosexual author writes a compelling gay or lesbian romance, then it should be celebrated and respected as such.

In the Humanities departments where I work, we have a number of gay and lesbian faculty who are very open to transcending sexual identities in academic work as well as in artistic productions. My own dissertation director is a man as well as director of the Women's Studies department where I went to grad school. White faculty members teach African American literature courses and African American faculty teach canonical literature. I suppose that I find the limitations we put on each other to be stifling and unproductive.
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 2491

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chris booklover wrote:


I also agree with your observation that many of the men in romance "behave nothing like real men." This applies to both m/f and m/m romances. It does not mean that it is intrinsically impossible for a writer to depict the opposite sex - many authors, both male and female, do so very successfully. The issue is that some of the conventions of the genre work against a realistic depiction of heroes.


Yes! Thank you! That is what I was trying to say. I think in this genre it can be especially hard to write realistic men because they have to be so open, emotive, loving, devoted, super sexualized for the heroine and yet totally monogamous etc. etc. The restrictions often create a caricature. I know that in a Sandra Brown book, just for an example, I can find a a soft, sweet heroine with a tough inner core (Rainwater) or someone with far fewer sweet edges (Switch) but the hero will always be alpha and tough. Their personalities are rarely memorable unless you stumble upon one of the uber a$$es from her early works. She basically writes the same guy and pairs him up with someone new. Of course that isn't true of every last book (Envy was pretty original) but in general I find her heroes tend to be a "type" and she takes more time to create a unique heroine.

Of course, just my opinion.

maggie b.
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Lillian Sulivan



Joined: 05 Feb 2010
Posts: 237

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jaime wrote:
Indeed, I know one gay man in real life who thinks women ought to not be writing m/m at all because "they don't know what gay men are actually like".


That doesn't seem to stop anyone from writing about Dukes...

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Lilly
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 677

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The Song of Songs is written in Classical Hebrew, a language where pronouns, adjectives and verbs are inflected to express gender. As a Hebrew speaker I can tell you that the grammar reveals that The Song of Songs narrator is female and the lover she is describing and talking about male.


Fascinating things I did not know. Off to reread...
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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
Posts: 707

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MMcA (and PWNN)-- I have to apologize. I misremembered. I just went back and refreshed my memory by rereading some of The Song of Songs. I see that I had forgotten parts of the poem. Some lines are clearly heterosexual but others are open to interpretation. I assumed heterosexuality throughout partly because when I first read it it didn't occur to me that there could be multiple (more than two) speakers. It was also my default assumption from when I first encountered the poem as a child and I didn't question that assumption, but I should have. Mea culpa!

Anyhow, rereading the Hebrew now (and this is a layman's interpretation), I see that in Chapter 1:

Line 1 is in third person and therefore doesn't specify the gender of the speaker or the one being addressed.

Lines 2--4 The narrator's gender isn't specified but the narrator is speaking to a male.

However I made the (perhaps wrong) assumption that the narrator is female in these lines because:

Lines 5-6 are clearly narrated by a woman. They are addressed to plural people ("daughters of Jerusalem").

Line 7 is also narrated by a woman and this one is addressed to a man.

Line 8 is addressed to a woman but the gender of the narrator isn't clear.

Lines 9-11 are narrated by a man to a woman.

Linee12 is back to third person so again the narrator's gender isn't specified.

Line 13 is narrated by a woman to a man and line 14 may be as well. The gender of the speaker isn't given for line 14 but since the speaker uses the same word in reference to a male lover that a female narrator used in the previous line, "dodi" (translated into English as "My beloved") I tend to think the speaker is female here as well.

In line 15 we are back to a male speaker addressing a female spouse.

Line 16 is addressed to a male, and the gender of the speaker is not obvious.

Line 17 -- The narrator here refers to himself or herself as part of a plural group, because of that the grammar does not reveal gender.

That's the end of Chapter 1.

I can't take the time right now to read the whole poem (eight whole chapters!) but you can see the Hebrew and English alongside each other at this link:

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3001.htm
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PWNN



Joined: 11 Apr 2010
Posts: 912

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LFL, thanks so much for the translations.

There have been numerous debates about the Song Of Songs and it's literary origins and translations and I've read several varying pieces on it. But unlike you I can't read an untranslated text.

I recently read a review of Dr. Paul R. Johnson’s OOP book, The Song of Songs, A Gay Love Poem (Fidelity Press, 1995) by Jim Kepner. I haven't read the book, nor am I biblical or ancients scholar so I have no idea how founded or sound his conclusions are but it's just one from the POV that most of the poem is from one man to another.

Quote:
The Song of Songs, a Gay Love Poem, gives an amazing new turn to the highly erotic Old Testament love poem in the Bible, inaccurately called “The Song of Solomon,” which has been a mystery and often a scandal to Jews and Christians alike. Homophobic religious writers have, among other things, wiggled about trying to explain a supposed woman with male parts and male roles.

Dr. Paul R. Johnson, an evangelical minister who has written extensively about fundamentalists and gays, and who has long been involved in the Southern California gay movement, has labored for twenty years with the original Hebrew, finally producing a translation aided by fragmentary pre-Masoretic texts which clear up the mystery.

His 144 page book discusses how the text, originally written about 920 B.C.E., evolved from a frankly homophilic love poem sung in homes and taverns at a time when the Hebrews were not yet publicly homophobic (such poems were found in many ancient Near Eastern cultures), to the editing millenia later by Masorete scribes, who produced the presently confused text.

A more accurate version appeared in several earlier scraps of the song found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumram cave #4. The cover-up began in the first line, when the name Asher, one of Solomon’s many sons, apparently black, was read as a preposition instead of a proper name. In the second verse, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible notes that the pronouns for the beloved, given as neuter in the text, are really masculine. Most Hebrew scholars admit parenthetically, that the speaker-lover in 85% of the poem is clearly male, as is the beloved. Yet all modern versions except that by Rev. Dr. Johnson make it appear as a heterosexual love drama.

Direct quotes show otherwise: 4:10,11:

How delightful you are Caleh,
My lover-man, my other half.
Your pleasing masculine love is better than wine.
The smell of your body is better than perfume.
Your moustache is waxed with honeycomb.
Honey and milk are under your tongue.
The scent of your clothing is like the smell of Lebanon.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
for your love-making is sweeter than wine.
In his delightful shade I sit,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
My love is mine and I am his.
.

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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
Posts: 707

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PWNN wrote:

His 144 page book discusses how the text, originally written about 920 B.C.E., evolved from a frankly homophilic love poem sung in homes and taverns at a time when the Hebrews were not yet publicly homophobic (such poems were found in many ancient Near Eastern cultures), to the editing millenia later by Masorete scribes, who produced the presently confused text.

A more accurate version appeared in several earlier scraps of the song found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumram cave #4. The cover-up began in the first line, when the name Asher, one of Solomon’s many sons, apparently black, was read as a preposition instead of a proper name. In the second verse, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible notes that the pronouns for the beloved, given as neuter in the text, are really masculine. Most Hebrew scholars admit parenthetically, that the speaker-lover in 85% of the poem is clearly male, as is the beloved. Yet all modern versions except that by Rev. Dr. Johnson make it appear as a heterosexual love drama.

Direct quotes show otherwise: 4:10,11:

How delightful you are Caleh,
My lover-man, my other half.
Your pleasing masculine love is better than wine.
The smell of your body is better than perfume.
Your moustache is waxed with honeycomb.
Honey and milk are under your tongue.
The scent of your clothing is like the smell of Lebanon.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
for your love-making is sweeter than wine.
In his delightful shade I sit,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
My love is mine and I am his.
.
[/quote]

Fascinating! If earlier versions than the one included in the Bible have been found, then I certainly wouldn't discount the possibility that they are homophilic. I haven't seen or read any, and my translation only references the Biblical version.

Over twenty years ago, I took a class called "Women and the Hebrew Bible" at my university. The professor was feminist and she told us there was a theory among feminist Biblical scholars that given its erotic content, it was likely that the Song of Songs originated from an earlier era (perhaps even when goddesses like Ishtar and Inanna were worshipped in the Middle East) and would have been orally recited long before it was written down in the Bible. My professor said some of her colleagues believed a woman had a hand in writing it.

Who knows who is more correct, my professor or the scholar you quote from. Both seem plausible to me, but I am not a biblical scholar.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1204

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Franz Delitzsch: “The Song is the most obscure book of the Old Testament. Whatever principle of interpretation one may adopt, there always remains a number of inexplicable passages. . . .”

Marvin Pope: “[N]o composition of comparable size in world literature has provoked and inspired such a volume and variety of comment and interpretation as the biblical Song of Songs.”

Daniel Estes: “Scholars vary widely on nearly every part of its interpretation. . . . Virtually every verse presents challenges in text, philology, image, grammar or structure.”

Christopher W. Mitchell: “My fascination with the Songs of Songs began in 1978 . . . when I took a graduate class on its Hebrew text at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That fascination grew under the tutelage of my doctoral advisor, Professor Michael V. Fox.” O’Donnell comments, “Mitchell goes on to talk about how he has read commentaries and articles, preached and taught, and since 1992 worked earnestly on his 1,300 (!) page commentary on the Song. He has worked almost thirty years on the Song, but then he writes in his preface about his desire to spend another decade to ‘delve more deeply into . . . this most difficult book of sacred Scripture.’”

"Scholars have noted that Song of Songs shows similarities of various kinds with other Ancient Near Eastern love poetry in general,[23] but particularly some Sumerian erotic passages,[24] and the Ramesside Egyptian love poetry.[25] Discussion of similarities with Tamil love poetry was also of interest in scholastic discussion in the late 20th century.[26]"
23^ Gwendolyn Leick, Sex and eroticism in Mesopotamian literature, 1994.
24^ Cheryl Exum, Song of Songs, 2005.
25^ Fox, M.V. The Song of Songs and Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985
26^ Chaim Rabin (1973), Abraham Mariaselvam (1987).
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RadFanBoy



Joined: 11 Dec 2010
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Well, here goes... Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Perhaps it too openly reveals my "stodginess," but I can't see m/m, f/f, m/f/m, or any more extensive configurations as "romance." I can see the first two as "love stories," but "romance" differs from those in a number of ways. First, there is no mystery in the relationship of m/m, f/f; it's narcissistic. Second, any conflict cannot arise from the gender of the participants, except perhaps through resistance by one or the other of the participants to the relationship itself or from completely external forces.


You are wrong OP Smile. There can be mystery and conflict in a same sex romance if the characters are written to conflict with one another. At one time I was particular about only reading lesbian fiction with two relatively feminine heroines. First of all, femininity is only one aspect of a woman's personality. You can take out the helplessness, submissiveness, and meekness of the typical heroine and still have a pretty feminine lady.

I also think conflict is exciting. I know girls and women who have trouble talking to other females, and who would prefer to be around men instead. I think that would make an interesting story, a tomboy lesbian who is one of the guys or is just too geeky/socially awkward to relate to other girls she likes.
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