Nelson begins with the issue of how to read homosexual writing, noting, "Many critics today try to understand these textual problems by linking the homosexuality of an author with his or her writings in not only a thematic, but structural, formal way." In psychoanalytic terms, this is the kind of reading that would expect from a homosexual analysand not only different material, but also a variant cognitive style. A question debated by critics is to what extent homosexuality is a social construct. One may be reminded of Freud's own definitions in Three Essays on Sexuality (p. 229), where he veers between innate and psychological origins of homosexuality and concludes, "Where inversion is not regarded as a crime it will be found that it answers fully to the sexual inclinations of no small number of people." The pitfall of the "construct" reading, as Nelson sees it, is that these readers treat homosexuality as an ahistorical phenomenon, independent of era and culture. Nelson therefore provides the background of Edwardian England and its treatment of sexual aberrations, following Michel Foucault's tracing of the "perversion" view that emerged in the nineteenth century.
Nelson links this opprobrium to the narrative strategies in Forster's Maurice, with its explicit homosexual theme, and The Longest Journey, whose protagonist shows aspects of latent homosexual behavior. Forster's expression of homosexuality in Edwardian society comes out through what Nelson terms "narrativeinversion," traditional narrative sequences retold to show homophobia and repression. Thus, Maurice hears the story of his family, but feels it counter to his own nonheterosexual inclinations; and Dr. Barry, the physician to whom he goes for help, rejects his situation out of hand. Similarly, in The Longest Journey, the protagonist Rickie enters a loveless marriage as he strives to come to terms with socially acceptable meanings of "friend," "brother," and "marriage of true minds."
Forster tended to comment parenthetically as he was narrating, describing a character and pronouncing on the portrait, for example. The results bear a resemblance to the critic Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of dialogic, wherein an author uses characters to work out problems of conflicting views. In Forster, Nelson observes, the end is "to understand how homosexual desire works against dominant ideology."
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Galef, D. (1994). Literature. Psychoanal. Q., 63:171