Friday, January 20, 2012

St. Sebastian: "The Most Frequently Renewed Archetype of Modern Gay Identity"

Well, modern gay male identity, perhaps.

The quote in the title of this post is from Richard Kaye's scholarly article about St. Sebastian and his iconography through the ages. This article is from, the world's largest encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture. Kaye is Assistant Professor of English at Hunter College, and is currently working on a book about St. Sebastian in nineteenth-century art and literature.

Below (with added links) is an excerpt from Kaye's article, followed by links to previous Wild Reed posts about St. Sebastian, whose feast is celebrated today in the Roman Catholic tradition.

. . . Sebastian's extraordinary success as a "gay saint" is related to his status as an updated replacement for other culturally resonant "homosexual legends" – Hadrian and Antinous, Jonathan and David, Ganymede – whose narratives were reducible to narratives of love.

But the essence of Sebastian's tale resists such sentimentalization, standing as a modern emblem of radical isolationism, both a homoerotically charged object of desire and a source of solace for the rejected homosexual.

Since the advent of AIDS, St. Sebastian's historical position as a saint with the power to ward off the plague has been given a new sustenance, inspiring artists, such as the late David Wojnarowicz, to incorporate the martyr into their works. In painting, literature, film, music, theater, performance art, and recently, a video for the rock group R.E.M., St. Sebastian remains the most frequently renewed archetype of modern gay identity.

For more on St. Sebastian at The Wild Reed, see:
The Allure of St. Sebastian
"From Byzantine Daddy to Baroque Twink" – Charles Darwent on the Journey of St. Sebastian
Sebastian: Saint, Martyr, Gay Icon

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
Sergius and Bacchus: Martyrs, Saints, Lovers
Honoring (and Learning from) the Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus
The Archangel Michael as Gay Icon
St. Michael the Archangel: Perspectives and Portraits
Song of Songs: The Bible's Gay Love Poem
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
Let's Face It: The Catholic Church is a Gay Institution
Gay People and the Spiritual Life

Image 1: "Saint Sebastian and his Executioners" (1870) by Gustave Moreau.
Image 2: "Saint Sebastian" by Onorio Marinari (1627-1715).
Image 3: Gustave Moreau.

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