Carlisle, erastes: Notes on Patroclus Rising

August 19th, 2013 § 1 comment

So, I’d expected to need to write a long note about how this fic could in any way be considered “canon.” But, to my delight, it seems you all were right with me, and when the chapter 4 reviews came in, people were exclaiming about how well C&Ed fit as a prequel to canon. I imagine, then, that less explanation is necessary, but I’ll provide a little background on where I went with this.

The title of the piece is Patroclus Rising. Patroclus is a character from Homer’s The Iliad, the epic poem about the Trojan war. He is the companion to the great warrior Achilles, and it is for revenge of Patroclus that Achilles finally becomes fully drawn into the war. Many interpretations of The Iliad interpret the Achilles/Patrolcus relationship as being in the Greek pederastic tradition. While I fully acknowledge that this interpretation is a) anachronistic and b) highly debatable, it is to that interpretation of the Achilles/Patroclus bond that I meant to allude with this title.

The tradition of Greek pederasty, which, given their  classical educations, would’ve been well known to both Carlisle and Edward, is one which is not about lasting homosexual relationships, but rather was seen as part of bringing a boy into manhood. A man in his mid twenties to early thirties, the erastes, would take under his wing a young man just on the cusp of manhood, his eromenos. He would bestow the eromenos with gifts, shelter him, coddle him, and provide him with sexual pleasure in the form of fondling, fellatio, and intercrural intercourse (between the thighs). Some very sharp readers have noticed that at no time in this fic did Edward perform a sexual act beyond kissing on Carlisle; this is in keeping with the roles of the eromenos—he is the recipient of the erastes’ affection and does not necessarily return it. It was also seen as demeaning for either party to be penetrated; to do so would be to lower one’s status (part of why women were seen as being of lower status).

The second thing which helps move this toward a more canon interpretation, and why I’m comfortable calling this canon-compliant even though it assumes that Edward wasn’t telling a complete truth when he told Bella he was sexually inexperienced, has to do with the attitudes toward homosexual encounters that existed in the 1910s and 1920s. In chapter 3, Carlisle refers to “drawing the curtains,” which was a common euphemism in that age that literally describes the secrecy with which such acts were conducted. A man who had sexual encounters with another man was still very likely to marry a woman, and was also very likely to consider his homosexual experiences to not be “sex” because they did not involve a woman. To some extent, this same attitude was held by women of the age; particularly if said man was faithful to them thereafter, which helped me build Esme in these last chapters as well. To her mind, Carlisle did not intend to stay in a sexual relationship with Edward; he was merely in an all-male environment and…things happened. (Maybe this idea is where the “magic vagina that heals all a man’s wildness” trope that we see so often in fic comes from.) So, reading this in light of canon, it is my thinking that were a relationship between Edward and Carlisle to play out as it does in Patroclus, Edward wouldn’t feel himself to be lying in calling himself a virgin. To everything he knows and understands, he is one. Perhaps at some point, he might be completely truthful with Bella about what had happened, perhaps it would be considered water under the bridge.

Figuring those two pieces out took me awhile, and I hope my Ancient Literature professor is pleased that I pulled out and re-read my fourteen-year-old copy of The Iliad. But nevertheless, it was a wonderfully fun prompt to work out, and given that it created not only Patroclus but also “For a Season,” I’m pretty chuffed to have ever been asked to write it.

Many, many, many thanks to Team Carlward: capricorn75, deelovely, HeBelongsToMe, lts929, mycrookedsmile, and sleepyvalentina for the amazing, thought-provoking prompt and for their limitless patience while I worked out the details. Crazy, inestimable thanks  to my critique partner, twitina, and of course, my unending gratitude to all of you who read. The desire to read, and the gift of the time to do so is a gift a reader gives a writer. Even if the writer never sees the reader reading, if the reader never writes a fanfic review or an Amazon review, if the reader never even so much as mentions to anyone else about this thing that she enjoyed reading…the enjoyment is gift enough. After over two decades of writing only for myself, the gift of having even one person, let alone many, desire to read is one by which I am humbled and for which I will forever be deeply grateful.

Thank you.

–g

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§ One Response to Carlisle, erastes: Notes on Patroclus Rising

  • Sharon says:

    So well written. Your stories are always so thought provoking. This was not a slash fic but a story about love and friendship.

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