Brian Martin – “Gays in the Military: Combat Companions and Soldier Lovers in France” – September 29, 2009

Long before contemporary debates on “Gays in the Military” and the United States Army’s policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” soldiers looked to one another for emotional comfort, physical intimacy, and mutual support. From Charlemagne to Charles de Gaulle, the French historical record is rich in tales of military camaraderie and friendship. Published in 1892, Émile Zola’s celebrated war novel The Debacle is a monumental account of the French resistance and defeat during the War of 1870, that inscribes soldiers into a literary tradition stretching back to the warrior lovers of The Iliad and prefigures the homosexual soldiers of Cocteau, Proust, and Genet. In his lecture, Martin clearly establishes a bridge between ancient representations of military homoeroticism and the emergence of modern gay identity among the soldiers of the First and Second World Wars.

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