I N T R O D U C T I O N
Sodom, Its Inhabitants,
And Its Language in
Pasolini’s Final Works
In the heyday of gay and lesbian studies, Jonathan Goldberg
Edited an important collection of essays, entitled Reclaiming
Sodom (Routledge, 1994), that loosely revolved around
The theme of sodomy. The reference to Sodom as a place
That needs to be revisited and appropriated – the original
Place that witnessed the birth of a paradoxical practice that
Negates birth – was addressed in Rocky O’Donovan’s short
Piece by the same title, “Reclaiming Sodom.” Gay women, O’-
Donovan writes, have Lesbos, an “actual space which they can
Dream of and re-create and hope toward.”1 Unlike lesbians,
Gaymen do not have a “space/time to claim as [their] own.”
One day, O’Donovan continues, he had a sudden insight.
He realized that he should consider himself a “Sodomite-
American.” O’Donovan contends that, as Africa is a mythic
Birthplace for many black people in the United States, so
Sodom is the land of gayness, the place to which gay identity
Must return to get in touch with its roots. Like Africa,
Sodom is at once a place of the past and a utopian land of
The future, a land where gay identity creates and recreates
Itself. “I want to (re)claim Sodom for our own,” O’Donovan
Contends, “so I speak a new myth.”2 But it is worth remembering
That Sodom is a burnt-down place, a landscape of desolation.
To reclaim Sodom means to visit a desert of ashes.
The people who deny life (to follow the biblical andO’Donovan’s “myth”)
Come from a country that has been “denied.”
O’Donovan is certainly right when he stresses the importance of identifying
And retrieving a mythic place of origin for male homosexuals, an
Initial “somewhere” that would grant a mythic history to a sexual identity.
To go back to O’Donovan’s metaphorical and amusing expression
“Sodomite-American,” this “somewhere” would be the place where gay
Men’s “ancestors” first spoke the idiom of sodomy. O’Donovan, however,
Seems to opt for an ironic answer. “I like Sodom now,” he states in
The last paragraph of his essay, “I feel comfortable here. Of course god destroyed
It. . . And now Sodom is ours. . . . Let’s rebuild there. They always
Give us wastelands and we always turn them into music and gardens.”
O’Donovan does not seem to notice the derivative character of his hypothesis.
“They” would grant the land on which the new Sodom would
Arise. O’Donovan must have in mind the gay districts of many American
Cities, urban “wastelands” that the gay community has appropriated
And revitalized. Not a return to or retrieval of the original birthplace, the
New Sodom would resemble a Las Vegas casino, a reassuring place of cultural
Oblivion, a shopping mall where differences go unnoticed because
Overlooked by ignorance. The paradox of a mythic location of original
Presence is that it is at once a persistent memory and an urgent project,
An obsessive request that comes to us from a past preceding memory.
Sodom is a place that cannot be rebuilt or transformed.
To be a sodomite means to stand still (like the angels at the gate of
Eden) at the center of an experience of annihilation that has taken place
And is about to take place. Read in this manner, the inhabitants of this
Inhospitable place become the messengers of the end itself. Similar to angelic
Spokesmen of divine will, the sodomites both recall and announce