And is that loss perhaps a good thing?
I was thinking this morning that in a different place, at a different time Michael O'Rourke's recent post on Chaucer and fisting might have caused a mini scandal. Where are the teapot tempests of yesteryear? The invective, the emotion, the "profession is going to hell in a hand basket" declamations? It makes me almost nostalgic for my academic youth, when scholars could be shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that Chaucer might be read so perversely.
Actually, what I was remembering was the critical reaction to one of the earliest attempts to queer Chaucer. (WARNING: the following is based upon my recollections, and as my son reminds me almost daily I am so elderly that I have one foot in the grave. My memory is extremely faulty, a hair's breadth away from senility.) Glenn Burger had given a paper on queer Chaucer at a major conference (NCS, I think, but maybe it was MLA) c. 1994 in which he said something along the lines of "I am not arguing that Chaucer engaged in genital activity with other men (but neither do I want to rule out that possibility)." Another medievalist reported the line on the Chaucer electronic discussion list as affirming that Chaucer had had sex with other men. Outrage followed! (Listservs in the mid 90s were wonderful places for spleen. Quiet scholars got to TYPE IN CAPITALS and trot out their hell-handbasket metaphor ensembles). I suppose it was a time when "queer" had yet to be critically distinguished from gay; when a gay Chaucer somehow seemed scary; when Chaucer seemed so sacred that he didn't have genitals (or didn't use them, except as instruments of purgation). Maybe it was also a time of larger electronic communities, rather than the microcommunities that the blogs of today tend to foster.