Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study examines the representation of the sodomite in a variety of texts from 1660 to 1750. Unlike most gay historiography of the Restoration and eighteenth century, the study does not begin with the assumption that the increased discursive presence of the sodomite during this period necessarily indicates the emergence of a proto-modern "homosexual" identity; rather, it seeks to uncover the range of meanings set in motion by the figure of the sodomite and to examine the way that the representation of this figure is implicated in the larger configurations of social ordering and control. At the same time, however, it is acknowledged that the figure of the sodomite cannot be abstracted from a discourse of desire.;Chapter One traces the discursive emergence of the sodomite as a secularized "social type" in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in order to develop a rhetoric of "sodomitical practices." While the sodomite had been largely an abstract, demonic figure in the Renaissance, he is, during this period, given a cultural legibility. Consistently connected with tropes of inversion, instability, weakness, and foreigness, the sodomite comes to represent a "logic" of reversal, subversion, and cultural contamination. Chapter Two examines the way that these "sodomitical practices" are deployed--often incoherently--at times of social upheaval. Focusing on works by Rochester, Thomas Gordon, the Poems on Affairs of State, and a number of anonymous works, this chapter argues that the development of a secularized vision of the sodomite provided satirists with a compelling figure onto which a variety of social anxieties could be displaced. Thus, the sodomite is often made to bear a meaning that is only partly sexual and appears, instead, as a refigured and condensed representation of a variety of class, economic, and political transgressions.;As implicated as the sodomite is in social and political structures, Chapters Three and Four suggest that his representation cannot be explained entirely in terms of power relations. Though continually characterized as "foreign," the sodomite, through repeated representation, is necessarily rendered a domestic phenomenon; repeatedly rejected as not fit for representation, the sodomite nevertheless repeatedly returns as the object of a fascinated representation. Focusing on works by Smollett, Chapter Three argues that the depiction of the sodomite can become the focus of the very desire the representation means to police and negate. Chapter Four examines the spectacle of the sodomite in an anonymous broadside and in John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, and shows how these texts offer their readers a position from which to engage in homoerotic fantasy.



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