7 March 2024


 A little while ago, the Book Review section of The Times carried a review of a new book on homosexuality. The Reviewer was Diarmaid MacCulloch.

I don't know much about this "AI" business, but it seems to me that a Machine properly programmed would give you, if you typed in 'MacCulloch', exactly what this review says. All our dear old friends, now elderly chestnuts, are here ... "testy passing remarks of Paul of Tarsus": S Paul has had his "Saint" removed, just as if he had mismanaged a Post Office. We are told that it is "not 'homosexuality'" that "is denounced in the Christian Bible". 

For MacCulloch, "the same-sex relationships so pronounced in  the life of James VI and I of Scotland and England had no physical elements; that seems implausible." It reminds of the analysis, common in our time among the ideologically motivated, which argues that any opposition to a homosexualist agenda arises from the speaker's own covert or repressed homosexuality ... a neat thesis, which means that you can't argue against homosexualism without providing your interlocutor with additional evidence for the thesis you are opposing. 

And he refers to "a bizarre quarter-millenniun of paranoia about masturbation (not something that had much worried previous cuktures)." Anybody who has performed even a cursory survey of forms of devotion for "Compline" will know that going-off-to-bed was regarded as a dangerous moment for devout males (Dom Anselmo Lentini modified the text of the hymn Te lucis ante terminum) because it "excultis nostris moribus non opportuna est, unde expunctam velimus".

But what puzzles me ... what makes me seek enlightenment from readers ... is a sentence near the beginning of MacCulloch's review. "Embarrassed historians long neglected the topic; proper research had to await the 1980s and the efforts of three gay scholars: Michel Foucault, John Boswell and Alan Bray."

Really? Is MacCulloch unaware of the figure of Sir Kenneth Dover, 1920-2010, President of Corpus Christi College in this University, who published his Greek Homosexuality in 1978? It caused a great deal of comment when it was published. It is true that the volume currently under review is about "Early Modern Europe" and not the 'ancient Greeks' , but MacCulloch himself chooses to expand the subject under discussion to "three millennia".

Is there some ancient Odium Philologicum among dear old gentlemen going on here? Did Dover write or do something which MacCulloch still resents? 

Does anybody know?


william arthurs said...

Wishing death on Trevor Aston (who died in my final year at Oxford) and writing about it in his memoirs?

El Codo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Tighe said...

"Dr MacCulloch is known as a critic of the One True Church"

Although he certainly admires one contemporary Jesuit; cf. the last two paragraphs of this review:


E sapelion said...

Off topic I know, but is it worth getting a copy of MacCulloch's life of Thomas Cranmer? our local libraries do not seem to have it.