Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The beautiful ‘ugliness’ of gay love : affirmation, recognition, and acceptance of homosexual love through beauty embodied in gay bodies and art.
Authors: Tan, Fabian Zhi Yi.
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: A young gay man starting out in life and searching for love in a society that persecutes homosexuality finds himself in a quandary, torn between his desire to experience love and quashing it in order to be socially accepted. This situation resonates in the lives of Nicholas Guest and Dorian Gray, the protagonists in Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray respectively, and remains the dominant focus throughout the novels. The conflict within both protagonists, and the search for a viable way to reconcile the apparent incongruity between their sexual identities and social codes, are encapsulated in Nick’s thoughts as he listens to his boyfriend play the Andante movement of Mozart’s K533 on the piano: “To apologize for what you most wanted to do, to concede that it was obnoxious, boring, ‘vulgar and unsafe’ – that was the worst thing. And the music seemed to know this, to know the irresistible curve of hope, and its hollow inversion” (Hollinghurst 174). Music occupies a middle ground, capturing both the hope for affirmation and acceptance of homosexual love as well as its inverse, when social norms prevents homosexuals from expressing their identities and desires, leading to feelings of emptiness. Music – and art in a broader sense - understands this internal conflict and is able to express what would otherwise be considered ‘vulgar and unsafe’ to a wider audience, albeit subtly and indirectly. More importantly, what the two protagonists, as well as the other gay characters in the novels, seek in and through art is beauty, “the search for beauty being the real secret of life” (Wilde 59). The beauty that the gay characters fervently pursue is embodied in their lovers as well as in art. The former manifests in the bodies of lovers that through a romantic and/or sexual relationship affirm and materialise gay identities, while the latter serves to unveil homosexual love under the veil of ambivalent and polysemic aesthetics in order to gain recognition and acceptance in society. There are however limitations in their pursuits, which in turn determine their ability to actualise social recognition and acceptance. The interaction between homosexual characters and social norms also reflects how people do not exist in a vacuum but are situated within cultural context, which in turn limits and shapes the way sexuality and love are experienced in society. Sexuality, argues Nikki Sullivan, is “constructed, experienced, and understood in culturally and historically specific ways,” and as a result of its departure from the ‘normal’ heterosexuality, homosexuality has been variously condemned as sin, crime, and even sickness over different historical and cultural contexts (Sullivan 1). Consequently, homosexuality and homosexual love have suffered marginal and illegitimate status, and it is such a status constructed by society that both authors repeatedly stress in their novels. What surfaces is how Hollinghurst and Wilde – both of whom are gay – use their novels as a platform for social critique while giving voice to homosexual characters, which will be explored later vis-a-vis Michel Foucault’s concept of “polymorphous techniques of power” (Foucault 11). In exploring homosexual love in The Line of Beauty and The Picture of Dorian Gray, this thesis will first come to an understanding of love and beauty that will be synthesized from a reading of Plato’s The Symposium and Judith Butler’s “Desire” before examining the relationship between beauty and both homosexual bodies and art to demonstrate how it affirms, materialises, recognizes and accepts homosexual love in society.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
U0930787B - HL499 Final Year Thesis.docx
  Restricted Access
Main Article172.88 kBMicrosoft WordView/Open

Google ScholarTM


Items in DR-NTU are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.