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Christianity, Social Tolerance, And Homosexuality

Christianity, Social Tolerance, And Homosexuality

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Christianity, Social Tolerance, And Homosexuality

by John Boswell

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About This Item

Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1981. Soft Cover. Good. Not Ex-Library Copy. Trade Paperback Edition.Binding Is Solid.Text Unmarked.Not Ex-Library Copy.Corners Slightly Bumped. Reading Copy Only.Back Cover Has Chip.


Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality is a study by Medieval Studies Professor John Boswell.  It examines the history of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Christian West, and makes the case that homosexual behavior was relatively accepted until quite recently. Stonewall Book Award (1981) , National Book Critics' Circle Award Nominee (1980)


On Apr 23 2014, a reader said:
In 1980, the AIDS virus was being diagnosed and a holocaust in small was getting under way; gay visibility was increasing and with it homophobia was getting a fresh lease on life. Into the left field of this situation John Boswell, a little-known Yale scholar of European history, dropped, if not a bomb, than certainly something of a hand grenade: his study CHRISTIANITY, SOCIAL TOLERANCE AND HOMOSEXUALITY: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. It was a work of obvious erudition, drawing on a dozen languages and literatures; it was published with full scholarly dressing by a university press (Yale); it cited and discussed such household names as Aelred of Rievaulx, Valerius Maximus, Baudri of Bourgeuil and Abu’l-Qasim az-Zahrawi; its bibliography barely escaped being “uselessly massive”; and it announced its specific payload right in the title. In it, Boswell took the popular perceptions of Christianity’s attitude towards homosexuality (in a word: BAD) and opened up long historic avenues of complexity: the inheritance of classical stances on the subject; the difficulties and ambiguities of moving from the classical languages to expressing Biblical assumptions and attitudes (an entire appendix is devoted to “Lexicography and Saint Paul”); the effects of the rise and ebb of urbanization; the handing-on and snowballing of various chance and influenced translations. The final result was the upending of a lot of the old simplicities: word-meanings shifted, pockets of acceptance surfaced, old certainties were shown to be resting on swampy ground. Boswell’s grasp of the historical context and the languages was such that probably only other scholars would be able to dispute his arguments, but the book left the scholarly sales circles and got tackled by a lot of non-specialist readers, and its tone of calm helped to make the old hysterias and hostilities look vulgar and unsustainable. “What will strike some readers as a partisan point of view is chiefly the absence of the negative attitudes on the subjects ubiquitous in the Modern West; after a long loud noise, a sudden silence may seem deafening.” The real silences, of course, were in the old majority-rule histories, what Matthew Arnold called “the huge Mississippi of falsehood,” in which gay people figured stereotypically or not at all, as with all minorities—just those silences that the postwar revisionist histories have begun to break open. Boswell, by his own claim, was doing just a first scratching of the surface of the topic; but after thirty years no book has bettered his discussion. With insight, intelligence and, every so often, a nose- tweaking sense of impudence, he has brought these people out of their forgotten and unhonored graves and given them voice. A phrase from the AIDS years: “Silence is death.”

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Box 214 US (US)
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Christianity, Social Tolerance, And Homosexuality
John Boswell
Soft Cover
Book Condition
Used - Good
Univ. Of Chicago Press
Place of Publication
Chicago, USA
Date Published

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Box 214

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Box 214

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Reading Copy
Indicates a book that is perfectly serviceable for reading. It may have a defect or damage. As such, reading copy is not a...
Trade Paperback
Used to indicate any paperback book that is larger than a mass-market paperback and is often more similar in size to a hardcover...