The Introduction returns to a moment when scientists, writers, scholars, and sexologists were undecided about the etiology of sexuality, specifically whether it was congenital or acquired. In particular, it recovers the wide variety of modernist conceptions of sexuality in order to explore how specific etiological bases provide modalities for theorizing sexuality historically. In other words, the Introduction argues that these etiologies, which are often dismissed as homophobic or preposterous, record now (largely) vestigial models of sexuality. By retrieving these models etiology enables scholars to narrate how the gender of object choice emerged as sexuality’s dominant grammar. Thus, a historical etiological approach reverses the polarity of sexuality studies, turning attention away from the effects of sexuality toward representations of its causes. This shift responds to the proliferation of sexual classification and taxonomy at the turn of the twentieth century, considering how narratives of sexual causality (offered by the sexual subjects themselves or narrativized for them) stabilize or destabilize the emerging homo / hetero binary. It returns to these etiologies in order to reconsider the historical emergence and transformation of sexuality. In so doing, it maps the revolving door between literature and sexology.
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