Arabian Uranianism: T.E. Lawrence's rendition of homoerotic desire in the Arab East

Alkabani, Feras (2016) Arabian Uranianism: T.E. Lawrence's rendition of homoerotic desire in the Arab East. In: Interfaith Love: Love, Sex and Marriage in the Islamicate World from the Middle Ages to the Present, 22 June 2016 - 24 June 2016, Leiden University.

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T.E. Lawrence's views on gender and sexual relations in the Arab East are documented in his literary and biographical accounts. Scholar, antiquarian, poet, soldier and imperial diplomat, Lawrence experienced various parts of the Levant and Arabia before and during his engagement in the Arab Revolt (1916-18).

This paper explores Lawrence's depiction of same-sex relations and homoerotic desire through analysing certain anecdotes in his literary and documentary writing about gender and same-sex relations in the Muslim Arab East.

Highlighting the significance of the figure of the 'blond beduin', or 'Lawrence of Arabia', the paper exposes Lawrence's manipulation of his positioning: as an 'English sheikh' and a British imperial officer attracted to themes of Uranian love, seemingly more freely available in the Arab East.

Lawrence's love and devotion to Dahoum, a Syrian 'donkey-boy', who accompanied him on his scholarly pre-War travels in the Levant is juxtaposed with other accounts in Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his 'personal narrative' of the Arab Revolt and the 'War on the Eastern Front'.

Lawrence's rendition of the Arabian youthful boy-to-boy love will be highlighted in his depiction of Farraj and Daud, the two Arabian boys who join the Arab Revolt uninvited.

Finally, Lawrence's own self-fashioning as Prince Feisal's aide-de-camp will be analysed vis-à-vis certain passages in Seven Pillars in which Lawrence's depiction of Prince Feisal is imbued with homoerotic tension highlighting Lawrence's attraction to Feisal and the way in which he positioned himself in relation to him.

The paper situates Lawrence and his interest in 'Other' sexuality within Orientalist discourse and highlights the role of the Arab East as a 'liberating' platform for Orientalist sexual wish-fulfilment.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Orientalist literature, Homoerotic desire, T.E. Lawrence
Schools and Departments: School of English > Sussex Centre for Language Studies
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Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2020 09:03
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2020 09:03
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