The radical reappraisal spoken of in the subtitle of this book is James Davidson’s disagreement with Kenneth Dover’s 1978 Greek Homosexuality (Vintage Books) and with subsequent Foucaultian takes on Dover. Both Dover and those who followed him offered interpretations of homosexuality which tended to focus on anal penetration and on power relations, as well as a largely uniform description of the phenomenon in the ancient Greek world.
Davidson, drawing on a multitude of sourcesâ€”myths, vase paintings, Platonic dialogues, plays, architecture, and historiesâ€”sometimes produces interpretations which are more fanciful than convincing. However, one conclusion he draws, that there existed various homosexualities in the ancient Greek cities and among Greek cultural groups (Cretan, Spartan, Theban or Boeotian, Athenian), is convincing. His ultimate position, that the one shared characteristic of all these types of homosexuality is an emphasis on same-sex, largely male, coupling is somewhat controversial.
Nonetheless, this book is a necessary item in any collection (academic or public) that holds either Dover’s earlier work or Foucault’s writings on sexuality.
Reviewed by David Woolwine
Assistant Professor of Library Services
Hempstead, New York