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Visions of SodomReligion, Homoerotic Desire, and the End of the World in England, c. 1550-1850$
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H. G. Cocks

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226438665

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226438832.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Visions of Sodom

H. G. Cocks

University of Chicago Press

Historians have seen the late-seventeenth century as a key moment in the making of modern, Western sexuality. Homoerotic behaviour was now singled out as a particular problem, whereas in the medieval period it had merely been part of a broader collection of sins collectively known as "luxuria" or sodomy. This moment of change is often seen as marking the moment when sexual behaviour was detached from religious discourses. This chapter argues that the most powerful way of understanding homoerotic behaviour in the early-modern period derived from England's post-Reformation religious history, specifically from the reliance on scripture as the basis of faith. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah provided the key reference point, and ideas about homoeroticism based on it persisted well into the nineteenth century and beyond. Although it is common to see "sodomy" as a "confused category," the story of Sodom in fact provided a complete explanation of homoerotic behaviour, explaining its existence in the world, its historical genealogy, its association with false religion, its location in time and space, and also suggested ways of preventing it.

Keywords:   homosexuality, history, early modern, England, religion

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