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

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

H. G. Cocks

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226438665

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in a storm of fire and brimstone sent from heaven, as recorded in Genesis. The biblical story provided perhaps the most important reference point in early modern England for those wanting to explore the nature of sexual excess and especially homoerotic desire. Visions of Sodom examines the different ways in which the story of the wicked cities was interpreted and read from the early modern period to the nineteenth century, and how it shaped understanding of homoerotic desire. During that period, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah provided a myth describing the origin of “fornication,” but also contained other important elements. Sodom was not only a marker of sexual sins, but also the epitome of false religion, the archetype of a city, an example of hell’s fire and what would happen at the end of the world, the symbol of a sinner’s permanent torment, and a mysterious physical site – a real place that could be searched for and visited. Sodom had a fourfold unity as an iniquitous city, a symbol of eternal punishment, an actual place, and a complex of often unnameable and terrible sins. Visions of Sodom describes how these various readings were used to make homoerotic desire visible and explicable in Protestant Britain.