Bisexual Identity in Literature Historical Background

Historical Background

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Writers have always sought to portray all aspects of life, including the myriad varieties of human sexuality. Traditional proscriptions against homosexuality have relegated depictions of non-heterosexual relationships to the periphery, or have cast them as evil, unhealthy, or dangerous to society.

It is nevertheless known that many men in ancient Greece had wives and male lovers, as vividly portrayed in the historical novels of Mary Renault. William Shakespeare’s sonnets allude to the poet’s attraction for the Dark Lady and for the beloved male friend. The work of nineteenth century poet Walt Whitman is filled with a generally inclusive eroticism. The novels of Virginia Woolf reflect her own bisexuality. The bisexual marriage of Vita Sackville-West, Woolf’s lover, and Harold Nicolson is chronicled by their son, Nigel Nicholson, in Portrait of a Marriage (1973).