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Unlike much of the scholarship that has reexamined issues of gender and sexuality in the Restoration and eighteenth century, this book is not concerned with tracing the emergence of a proto-modern "homosexual" identity. In The Sodomite in Fiction and Satire, the central question is: Why did so many eighteenth-century writers represent the sodomite at all? What purposes did these representations serve?
Charting the emergence of the sodomite as a social type, Cameron McFarlane argues that the sodomite symbolized a variety of economic and political conflicts and transgressions; at the same time, the cumulative effect of these representations was to enable homoerotic desire to be articulated as it was being condemned.
McFarlane begins with an examination of several texts -- Faustina, The Tragedy of Nero, and others -- that portray the sodomite as a destructive force: foreigner, papist, tyrant, and despoiler of British masculinity. He follows with close readings of two satires; Sodom: or the Quintessence of Debauchery, and Love Letters Between a Certain Late Nobleman and the Famous Mr. Wilson. In the first, sodomy is equated with political abuse of power, while the second depicts sodomy as a "false economy of desire". McFarlane also explores the sodomite as a sexual provocateur in the works of Tobias Smollet and John Cleland.