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Homophobia: A History Paperback – November 3, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Antipathy, condemnation, loathing, fear and proscription of homosexual behavior" have taken many forms over the centuries. In this lucid history, Fone (The Columbia Encyclopedia of Gay Literature) charts the ways in which homophobia has induced legal, medical, social and ecclesiastical authorities to punishAand killAgay men. Drawing upon accepted classics of gay studiesAJohn Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, David F. Greenberg's Construction of Homosexuality and Jonathan Ned Katz's Gay/Lesbian Almanac, as well as other books and articlesAFone's compendium of social intolerance argues that, despite social progress, hating homosexuals is "the last acceptable prejudice." The litany of horrorsAbiblical condemnation, slander, whipping, imprisonment, drowning, garroting and castrationAis chilling, yet even more disturbing is the author's contention that violence against homosexuals has been central to Western culture. Nonetheless, several flaws keep the book from becoming more than a well-written primer. For one, Fone contributes little original research, instead relying on traditional lesbian and gay scholarship, yet he ignores some of the newest, most challenging work in the field (such as Carolyn Dinshaw's Getting Medieval). Most provocatively, while he addresses the differences between essentialist and social constructionist theories of gay identity, he declares that homophobia has a clear, unchanging, social and political character. Also problematic is the book's failure to address the violence perpetuated against lesbians. Still, at a time when the word "homophobia" is dismissed by many as politically correct rhetoric, Fone's work remains a powerful introduction to the undeniable historical impact of the attitudes it describes. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Recognizing that homophobia manifests itself in many forms over time, Fone (emeritus, CUNY), compiler of the definitive Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature and author of the highly acclaimed novel American Studies, suggests that a better term for the phenomena he seeks to explicate is the plural, homophobias, to indicate the variety of expressions of feeling: fear, contempt, disgust, hatred, and prejudice. His historical survey focuses on prejudice against male homosexuality in the West. Each section consists of several essays on particular eras (e.g., Antiquity, Enlightenment, Victorian) and aspects (legal, religious, psychological) of the topic in Western culture. Breathtaking in scope, Fone's work shines with his ability to synthesize vast amounts of material coherently and accessibly. This is not simply a chronology, since his interpretations are thorough and well documented. Recommended for all academic libraries and larger public libraries.DD.S. Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (November 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420307
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

La Millasserie
24150 Mauzac et Grand Castang

Byrne Fone is the author of the novels "War Stories," "Trojan Women," and "Achilles: A Love Story," a gay romance, which together make up the "Trojan Trilogy," set at the time of the War at Troy. His most recent novel is "American Revolution," a political crime novel about a gay American president.

Byrne is a recognized pioneer in the field of Gay Studies and has written several books in the field including: "A Road to Stonewall: Homosexuality and Homophobia in British and American Literature "(Scribners), a study of Walt Whitman: "Masculine Landscapes: Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text" (S. Illinois University Press). He has edited the largest and most comprehensive anthology of gay literature, "The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature" (Columbia University Press) and in "Homophobia: A History" ( Holt and Picador) he examines the history of homophobia over a period covering almost two millennia.

He is also the author of "Historic Hudson; An Architectural Portrait," a history of the City of Hudson, New York, that includes more than 200 images from the 19th to the 20th century of the Hudson's incomparable collection of 18th and 19th century architecture.

Byrne Fone and his partner Alain Pioton live in France where they operate their bed and breakfast: Le Domaine de La Millasserie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Relnereth DuFaun on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a young gay man trying to understand his place in the world and how he fits into it all, this book was shocking and occasionally disturbing as it chronicled the tormented history of homosexuals in Europe and America.

Being the first non-fiction book I read concerning homosexuality, I winced as I read about the grisly executions performed in the name of God and/or the law, or how homosexuals where rooted and hunted out as in the witch hunts in early Europe. Atrocities towards fellow human beings are perpetrated with such righteous fervor that you wish they would look in the mirror and see what monsters they've become. It chills me to think that had I been born during that dismal period, I could be drowned, stoned, or burned at the stake for consummating my love with another man.

As a Christian, it shames me to learn from reading this that because of one account in the Bible, twisted or misunderstood by interpreters, Christian authorities have employed it as a reason to deliver their brutal judgement against the "sin of Sodom". Worse, as Christianity spread throughout the world, it carried with it the plague of homophobia. Read with horror upon the settlers' arrival in the New World, what they did to the Native Americans. It still confounds me to why people who believe in a god who is the epitomy of love and forgiveness, would embrace hatred and prejudice against their fellow men, as different as they may be.

Reading this has really made me thankful to be living in this day, where even if homosexuality might be frowned upon by some, it has become more understood and more tolerated, if not accepted.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Byrne Fone, in Homophobia A History, looks at exactly what the title states. It is the perfect book for those interested in a first look at the subject of homosexuality through the ages in European and American culture. It is neither particulary scholary or exhaustive and while each of the specific topics (such as literature) or eras (such as medieval) is covered more thouroughly elsewhere, this book provides a fascinating glimpse at the horrendous forces at play through homophobia, whether religious, civil or personal, as they have shaped society from ancient Greece to Stonewall. There are certain gaps, such as the absence of a discussion of Europe during the twentienth century. It is a horrifying glimpse into the history of a destructive mindset and the author handles the subject matter in an illuminating and interesting fashion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Lake on January 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book must have taken years to write and is worth eveery moment expended in its creation. Although another reviewer said it wasn't a page turner I found it to be one of the most fascinating academic studies I have ever encountered and after putting it down couldn't wait to get back to it. A historical guide that at the same time manages to be right up to date and sadly and frighteningly appropriate to our culture of the moment, one of its most painful implications is that human nature will seemingly never change. Will the attacks on our fellow man and woman over nothing ever stop? Read this book and form your own opinion. The book won't disappoint you; but it's message, brilliant but hardly uplifting, will certainly frighten you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David C. Young on January 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In many ways, this is a brilliant book with a brilliant starting point. Tragically, "Western" GLBT history, after the ancient Greeks & Romans, is bound-up with homophobia. Worse, homophobia was and often still is officially sanctioned. Sexual & loving personal details are much less public and reported than, say, battles and the reigns of kings. So until recently, most of what's written in Europe and North America about homosexuality is homophobia.

Fone is a great author for "grand history", that is, history well-written with just the right fascinating details and targeted generalizations about cultural aspects and time periods. These often center on great men (yes, usually male), great events, great thoughts, and great writing. As a literary historian with several books on GLBT history, Fone knows his sources. (His The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature - a collection of GLBT writings since the Greeks - though almost 20 years old is still, to my knowledge, the best collection available.) He also appears to have a good working knowledge of Greek, Latin, German and French. So he can delve into often untranslated sources and non-English histories. He is wonderful with "potted histories" -- one to two paragraph summaries, memorably encapsulating the main points. These introduce and conclude not only all chapters, but all his many sections. And fortunately, by the time he wrote this book (1998-1999), there were enough specialized GLBT histories - e.g., homosexuality in Renaissance Florence, male friendships in Victorian England, gay life in late 19th/early 20th c. New York - that he could draw on comparatively rich specialized research.
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