The topic of homosexuality has always been one approached with caution due to its taboo nature derived from its deviation from the heterosexual norm. Traditionally, and across several cultures, homosexuality has been successfully discussed through normalizing the behaviour through heterosexual representation. Gender reversal or amplification of feminine qualities of male characters have often been means by which authors are able to subtly introduce the foreign idea of homosexuality and equate it to its more formal and accepted counterpart, heterosexuality. The works of Shakespeare and Li Yu have assisted in exposing homosexual relationships while still maintaining them under the heterosexual norm, whether it be through direct or metaphorical representations.
Li Yu's Male Mencius's Mother epitomizes the normalization of homosexuality through the characters' strict adherence to Confucian gender norms. While initially a condemnation of homosexuality citing the rebelliousness towards the divine design of heterosexuality and the complementary nature of male and female, the story instead romanticizes the self-sacrifice and devotion of the homosexual relationship of two men. The presentation of the homosexual relationship is designed to maximize the acceptance of homosexuality through the application of heterosexual components, such as the definition of a "male" and "female" to Jifang and Ruilang respectively. Jifang establishes his dominance as "male" through his taking of a wife and fathering a child, while Ruilang accepts his "female" definition through the physical transformation of castration and psychological transformation into the Confucian chaste wife and dutiful mother.
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...on and condemnation of “southern mode.” The Renaissance period allowed a more progressive, albeit periphery, discussion through the subtle works of Shakespeare and his storylines and supporting characters. However, both approached the ideology of homosexuality through application of the heterosexual norms to the homosexual relationship, minimizing criticism and legitimizing homoeroticism.
Hanan, Partick and Yu Li. Silent Operas. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1990.
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1889. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2010.
Traub, Valerie. Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama. London, Routledge, 1992.
Wayne, Valerie, ed. The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1991.
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