Charles Maturin was a handful to wade through, but I’ve finally conquered Melmoth the Wanderer. My final thought is that Charles was struggling with his own sexuality and used Melmoth to come to terms with his own fears in a way that resonated with him.
A queer reading of Melmoth isn’t really a stretch. From a modern perspective, it’s easy to see Maturin’s struggle. Remember when Maturin wrote this book our LGBTQIA forebearers were seen as pathological, criminal, and other. It seems fitting that Charles Maturin, a minister, and an author prone to the sensational, would pour his fears into gothic horror. The genre allowed for the expression of what he would have perceived as the darkest parts of his persona.
It’s heartbreaking and a story so many of our queer and trans family have experienced to one degree or another. There’s no reason to look backwards to find oppression and bigotry aimed at our community, even now there are countries where being queer is a death sentence.
Here in the US one of the highest ranking political officials (the Vice President of the US) has championed conversion therapy and actively sought to criminalize marriage equality. There are many not-so-silent corners of my country where being queer or trans is the basis for discrimination for housing, marriage, and adoption. Purchasing a wedding cake is a challenge for queer folks, depending on where they live and what’s available.
There’s so much farther to go before we reach a place where people are free to live and love without fear.
Next up on the Queering Time Travel Adventure: “Joseph and his friend: a story of Pennsylvania” by Bayard Taylor. Published in 1870, this book is largely regarded as the first American gay novel.
Curious about the other stops on this adventure? Check out the Queering Time Travel shelf on my Goodreads profile.
“Arcadia,” Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), ca. 1883, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, www.metmuseum.org.