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Visions of Sodom

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

H. G. Cocks

Visions of Sodom

H. G. Cocks

352 pages | 1 halftone, 5 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226438665 Published March 2017
E-book $55.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226438832 Published March 2017
The book of Genesis records the fiery fate of Sodom and Gomorrah—a storm of fire and brimstone was sent from heaven and, for the wickedness of the people, God destroyed the cities “and all the plains, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” According to many Protestant theologians and commentators, one of the Sodomites’ many crimes was homoerotic excess.

In Visions of Sodom, H. G. Cocks examines the many different ways in which the story of Sodom’s destruction provided a template for understanding homoerotic desire and behaviour in Britain between the Reformation and the nineteenth century. Sodom was not only a marker of sexual sins, but also the epitome of false—usually Catholic—religion, an exemplar of the iniquitous city, a foreshadowing of the world’s fiery end, an epitome of divine and earthly punishment, and an actual place that could be searched for and discovered. Visions of Sodom investigates each of these ways of reading Sodom’s annihilation in the three hundred years after the Reformation. The centrality of scripture to Protestant faith meant that Sodom’s demise provided a powerful origin myth of homoerotic desire and sexual excess, one that persisted across centuries, and retains an apocalyptic echo in the religious fundamentalism of our own time.
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Roman Sodom
2. City of Destruction
3. The End of the World
4. Laws
5. Histories
6. Lust and Morality in the (Long) Eighteenth Century
7. The Discovery of Sodom, 1851
Conclusion: The End
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Review Quotes
Helmut Puff, University of Michigan
Visions of Sodom by H. G. Cocks redraws the map of a terrain many of us thought we knew well: the history of sodomy in early modern Europe. What emerges powerfully from this beautifully conceived and densely textured study on England is that theology, prophecy, and millenarianism, with their histories, continued to matter well throughout the period. A rare and superb achievement as well as a stunning read.”
Kenneth Borris, McGill University
“This lucid and fascinating study richly illuminates its subject. Cocks learnedly traces sodomy’s complex cultural roles and homoerotic applications from its ancient conceptual origins through the ensuing centuries into our present. He has superbly enhanced our knowledge of Western cultural, intellectual, and sexual history.”
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