In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
Allen J. Frantzen challenges the long accepted view that the early Middle Ages tolerated and even fostered same-sex relations and that intolerance of homosexuality developed only late in the medieval period. Frantzen shows that in early medieval Europe, the Church did not tolerate same-sex acts, in fact it was an age before people recognized the existence—or the possibility—of the "closet."
With its ambitious scope and elegant style, Before the Closet sets same-sex relations in Anglo-Saxon sources in relation to the sexual themes of contemporary opera, dance, and theatre. Frantzen offers a comprehensive analysis of sources from the seventh to the twelfth century and traces Anglo-Saxon same-sex behavior through the age of Chaucer and into the Renaissance.
"Frantzen's marvelous book . . . opens up a world most readers will never have even known was there. It's a difficult topic, but Frantzen's comprehensive, readable and even wryly funny treatment makes this an unexpected pleasure."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the legal issues concerning gender and sexual nonconformity in the United States. Part One, which covers the years from the post-Civil War period to the 1980s, is a history of state efforts to discipline and punish the behavior of homosexuals and other people considered to be deviant. During this period such people could get by only at the cost of suppressing their most basic feelings and emotions. Part Two addresses contemporary issues. Although it is no longer illegal to be openly gay in America, homosexuals still suffer from state discrimination in the military and in other realms, and private discrimination and violence against gays is prevalent. William Eskridge presents a rigorously argued case for the "sexualization" of the First Amendment, showing why, for example, same-sex ceremonies and intimacy should be considered "expressive conduct" deserving the protection of the courts. The author draws on legal reasoning, sociological studies, and history to develop an effective response to the arguments made in defense of the military ban. The concluding part of the book locates the author's legal arguments within the larger currents of liberal theory and integrates them into a general stance toward freedom, gender equality, and religious pluralism.
Opacity and the Closet interrogates the viability of the metaphor of “the closet” when applied to three important queer figures in postwar American and French culture: the philosopher Michel Foucault, the literary critic Roland Barthes, and the pop artist Andy Warhol. Nicholas de Villiers proposes a new approach to these cultural icons that accounts for the queerness of their works and public personas.
Rather than reading their self-presentations as “closeted,” de Villiers suggests that they invent and deploy productive strategies of “opacity” that resist the closet and the confessional discourse associated with it. Deconstructing binaries linked with the closet that have continued to influence both gay and straight receptions of these intellectual and pop celebrities, de Villiers illuminates the philosophical implications of this displacement for queer theory and introduces new ways to think about the space they make for queerness.
Using the works of Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol to engage each other while exploring their shared historical context, de Villiers also shows their queer appropriations of the interview, the autobiography, the diary, and the documentary—forms typically linked to truth telling and authenticity.
The all-embracing, "whaddya got?" nature of rebellion in Fifties America included pop music's unlikely challenge to entrenched notions of masculinity. Within that upheaval, four prominent artists dared to behave in ways that let the public assume—but not see—their queerness. That these artists cultivated ambiguous sexual personas often reflected an understandable fear, but also a struggle to fulfill personal and professional expectations.Vincent L. Stephens confronts notions of the closet—both coming out and staying in—by analyzing the careers of Liberace, Johnny Mathis, Johnnie Ray, and Little Richard. Appealing to audiences hungry for novelty and exoticism, the four pop icons used performance and queering techniques that ran the gamut. Liberace's flamboyance shared a spectrum with Mathis's intimate sensitivity while Ray's overwrought displays as "Mr. Emotion" seemed worlds apart from Little Richard's raise-the-roof joyousness. As Stephens shows, the quartet not only thrived in an era of gray flannel manhood, they pioneered the ways generations of later musicians would consciously adopt sexual mystery as an appealing and proven route to success.