mosse friendship and nationalism

mosse friendship and nationalism - Friendship and...

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CHAPTE R Friendship and Nationalism i The history of sexuality cannot be separated from the history of personal relationships, and especially that of friendship. The ways in which men and women related to one another, how men related to men, and women to women, not only served to define their sex- uality but was subject once again to the pressures of national- ism and respectability. National institutions, Rousseau wrote, give form to the genius, the character, the tastes, and the customs of a people, and he meant this praise to include taste in choosing one's friends. During the Enlightenment, emphasis was placed upon both indi- vidualism and the autonomy of personal relationships. Eventually, however, nationalism and respectability worked to restrict such autonomy; men and women should not be allowed to choose freely who their friends should be, just as they must not be allowed to follow their own sexual instincts. Standards must be set and ful- filled. Indeed, the very fabric of society seemed at stake. Alfred Cobban has told us that as the nation came to encompass both cul- ture and politics, it became the sole proprietor of human rights, and the individual and his rights began to fade away. 1 The French Revolution marked the transformation of the nation from a focus of often divided loyalty to an all-embracing principle, and the wars of the French Revolution accelerated this process in western and central Europe. As we saw earlier, in these wars nationalism made its alliance with the quest for moral renewal, broadening its base and appeal. 66 Friendship and Nationalism 67 We shall be concerned with male friendships here, leaving an analysis of friendships between women to the next chapter. Male friendships had played an important role in the life of the cultural elite during the eighteenth century, but they increasingly became a social and political force during the nineteenth and twentieth cen- turies. Nationalism had a special affinity for male society, and together with the concept of respectability legitimized the domi- nance of men over women. Male friendship faced that homoeroti- cism always close to the surface of nationalism. Here we must em- phasize once again the distinction between homoeroticism and homosexuality. There were those, especially in England, who saw in sexual relations between men the logical consummation of friendship; but they were a tiny minority. 2 Eroticism was difficult to banish from the ideal of friendship. More often than not, it was combined with a quest for sexual purity. Homoeroticism might en- courage platonic love, while homosexuality was perceived as ex- emplifying the baser instincts of men. Nevertheless, the line be- tween homoeroticism and homosexuality was never firmly drawn, and homoeroticism was for the most part conceived as a danger and a challenge to accepted norms. It was in Germany that the ideals of personal friendship were
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mosse friendship and nationalism - Friendship and...

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