Crompton had an international reputation as a Shavian scholar. In 1966, he was awarded the Frank H. Woods Foundation Fellowship to conduct research on Bernard Shaw at the British Museum. His book on Shaw’s plays, “Shaw the Dramatist,” won the national Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award for Literary Criticism in 1969.
In 1970, Crompton’s pioneering course in gay studies, the second to be offered in the nation, became a hot-button issue in the Nebraska state elections. One legislator introduced a bill banning the teaching about homosexuality at any state college. The bill failed.
Crompton served as faculty adviser for the Gay Action Group, the first gay student organization at UNL. He advised its successor, the Gay/Lesbian Student Association, for two decades. He also helped establish UNL’s Homophobia Awareness Committee, which was started by faculty, staff, and students to improve the climate for gay and lesbian people on campus. He was a long-time member of UNL’s Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns, and in 2003 received the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the GLBT Community.
In 1974, Crompton co-founded the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Modern Language Association, which attracted a large membership. In 1985, the University of California Press published his book “Byron and Greek Love,” which was widely and favorably reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic. UNL honored his scholarship a year later by conferring on him the Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity. His last book, “Homosexuality and Civilization,” covered 2500 years of world history and was awarded the Bonnie Zimmerman and Vern L. Bullough prize of the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality award for 2003. His work in the early days of the gay movement has been included in a soon-to-be released documentary film, “Before Homosexuals,” directed by John Scagliotti.
Other than Luis Diaz-Perdomo, El Cerrito, Calif. he is survived by his brother Gordon Crompton, sister-in-law Marion Crompton, and his nephew Robert Crompton of St. Catherines, Ontario; and by his niece Nancy Crompton, New Westminster, British Columbia.
Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton (2006)
Paperback: 648 pages
Publisher: Belknap Press (November 30, 2006)
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How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pre-Meiji Japan. Ancient Greek culture celebrated same-sex love in history, literature, and art, making high claims for its moral influence. By contrast, Jewish religious leaders in the sixth century B.C.E. branded male homosexuality as a capital offense and, later, blamed it for the destruction of the biblical city of Sodom. When these two traditions collided in Christian Rome during the late empire, the tragic repercussions were felt throughout Europe and the New World. Louis Crompton traces Church-inspired mutilation, torture, and burning of “sodomites” in sixth-century Byzantium, medieval France, Renaissance Italy, and in Spain under the Inquisition. But Protestant authorities were equally committed to the execution of homosexuals in the Netherlands, Calvin’s Geneva, and Georgian England. The root cause was religious superstition, abetted by political ambition and sheer greed. Yet from this cauldron of fears and desires, homoerotic themes surfaced in the art of the Renaissance masters—Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Sodoma, Cellini, and Caravaggio—often intertwined with Christian motifs. Homosexuality also flourished in the court intrigues of Henry III of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, James I and William III of England, Queen Anne, and Frederick the Great. Anti-homosexual atrocities committed in the West contrast starkly with the more tolerant traditions of pre-modern China and Japan, as revealed in poetry, fiction, and art and in the lives of emperors, shoguns, Buddhist priests, scholars, and actors. In the samurai tradition of Japan, Crompton makes clear, the celebration of same-sex love rivaled that of ancient Greece. Sweeping in scope, elegantly crafted, and lavishly illustrated, Homosexuality and Civilization is a stunning exploration of a rich and terrible past.
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