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Working Group on the Novel: Evan Alterman, Slavic Department, Paper: “Masonic Bodies in Queer Time”

Thu May 14th 2020, 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for the Study of the Novel

Respondent: Thomas Ardel, Professor and chair of LGBT Studies at CCSF

Paper abstract

This paper discusses the dichotomous interplay between Freemasonry and domesticity as presented in two late nineteenth-century Russian novels: Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy’s Война и мир (War and Peace, 1869) and Aleksei Feofilaktovich Pisemskii’s Масоны (Masons, 1880). To that end, my analysis focuses upon textual depictions of those rites marking entries into each realm – marriages and Masonic initiations – with particular attention devoted to participants’ bodies and genders. Such an approach is informed by queer theory and anthropological and folkloristic scholarship about the nature of rituals.3 Lauren Leighton and Ilya Vinitsky have discussed reflections of Freemasonry in Russian literature and epistolary traditions with a distinct focus on the esoteric (numerology, wordplay, and spiritual visitations, inter alia). I envision my analysis as an attempt to redirect attention from the occult to the objective, thereby effecting a discursive shift from the Masons as “secret” to the Masons as “society.”