Friday, February 27, 2015

I Say the Deplorable Word

Rock Island, Spring 1982

I remember a spring afternoon in 1982, my senior year at Augustana, sitting in my American Literature class in East Hall.  Dr. Dahlquist (not his real name), a grim, rotund hobbit, was lecturing on The Sun Also Rises, but I heard only a low drone; I was gazing out the southern window, at the Fratboys tossing Frisbees on the quad, or reclining under trees with paperbacks. I couldn’t read their titles, but I was certain that they were all about boys falling in love with girls.

Suddenly,to break the silence, or just to stir things up a bit, I raised my hand and asked if Ernest Hemingway may have been Gay.  (I think I said "Homosexual Tendencies."

Dr. Dahlquist stared, utterly taken aback. Someone behind me stifled a snicker. Otherwise the room became absolutely silent.   I was certain that the Deplorable Word had never been spoken in any classroom at Augustana College, or at any classroom at any college anywhere in the world.

After glancing at the other students, then back to me again, Dr. Dahlquist decided that I was not wisecracking or being initiated into a frat, but asking a legitimate question, however scandalous. He forgot all about Hemingway and began an impromptu lecture:

Christopher Marlowe
That currently fashionable vice destroys the intellect, Dr. Dalhquist said, reducing its victims to flitty, waspish creatures fit only for manicuring and gossip.

In spite of the ambiguities of his verse, we know that Walt Whitman scattered illegitimate children along the Eastern seaboard.

Shakespeare’s infamous sonnets written to  “Mr. W. H.” reflects a mere convention of the day, and Christopher Marlowe’s reputed love of  “tobacco and boys” was a defamation by his enemies.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a priest, therefore celibate, and as for Oscar Wilde, history tells them that he was merely “posing” as a sodomite: he had a wife and two children:

“The idea that a homo might have the wits to be a writer, especially a great writer, is absurd.”

Strangely enough, Dr. Dahlquist also taught my Creative Writing class, and constantly praised my stories. 

Thirty years have passed, but not much has changed.  Only "serious heterosexuals" need apply.

1 comment:

  1. Do you suppose the good doctor would praise the stories in your blogs?



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