A hard-hitting look at the regulation of sexual difference and its role in circumscribing African American culture
The sociology of race relations in America typically describes an intersection of poverty, race, and economic discrimination. But what is missing from the picture—sexual difference—can be as instructive as what is present. In this ambitious work, Roderick A. Ferguson reveals how the discourses of sexuality are used to articulate theories of racial difference in the field of sociology. He shows how canonical sociology—Gunnar Myrdal, Ernest Burgess, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Julius Wilson—has measured African Americans’s unsuitability for a liberal capitalist order in terms of their adherence to the norms of a heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family model. In short, to the extent that African Americans’s culture and behavior deviated from those norms, they would not achieve economic and racial equality.
Aberrations in Black tells the story of canonical sociology’s regulation of sexual difference as part of its general regulation of African American culture. Ferguson places this story within other stories—the narrative of capital’s emergence and development, the histories of Marxism and revolutionary nationalism, and the novels that depict the gendered and sexual idiosyncrasies of African American culture—works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. In turn, this book tries to present another story—one in which people who presumably manifest the dysfunctions of capitalism are reconsidered as indictments of the norms of state, capital, and social science. Ferguson includes the first-ever discussion of a new archival discovery—a never-published chapter of Invisible Man that deals with a gay character in a way that complicates and illuminates Ellison’s project.
Unique in the way it situates critiques of race, gender, and sexuality within analyses of cultural, economic, and epistemological formations, Ferguson’s work introduces a new mode of discourse—which Ferguson calls queer of color analysis—that helps to lay bare the mutual distortions of racial, economic, and sexual portrayals within sociology.
Stockton engages the domains of African American studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, film theory, photography, semiotics, and gender studies. She brings together thinkers rarely, if ever, read together in a single study—James Baldwin, Radclyffe Hall, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eldridge Cleaver, Todd Haynes, Norman Mailer, Leslie Feinberg, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino—and reads them with and against major theorists, including Georges Bataille, Sigmund Freud, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, and Leo Bersani. Stockton asserts that there is no clear, mirrored relation between the terms “black” and “queer”; rather, seemingly definitive associations attached to each are often taken up or crossed through by the other. Stockton explores dramatic switchpoints between these terms: the stigmatized “skin” of some queers’ clothes, the description of blacks as an “economic bottom,” the visual force of interracial homosexual rape, the complicated logic of so-called same-sex miscegenation, and the ways in which a famous depiction of slavery (namely, Morrison’s Beloved) seems bound up with depictions of AIDS. All of the thinkers Stockton considers scrutinize the social nature of shame as they examine the structures that make debasements possible, bearable, pleasurable, and creative, even in their darkness.
This book explores key texts of the black gay culture of the 1980s and ’90s. Starting with an analysis of the political discourse in anthologies such as In the Life and Brother to Brother, it identifies the references to the Harlem Renaissance and the Protest Era as common elements of black gay discourse. This connection to African American cultural and political traditions legitimizes black gay identity and criticizes the construction of gay identity as white. Readings of Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston, Samuel R. Delany’s “Atlantis: Model 1924” and The Motion of Light in Water, Melvin Dixon’s Vanishing Rooms, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and Steven Corbin’s No Easy Place to Be demonstrate how these strategies of signifying are used in affirmative, humorous, and ironic ways.
Common conceptions permeating U.S. ethnic queer theory tend to confuse aesthetics with real-world acts and politics. Often Chicano/a representations of gay and lesbian experiences in literature and film are analyzed simply as propaganda. The cognitive, emotional, and narrational ingredients (that is, the subject matter and the formal traits) of those representations are frequently reduced to a priori agendas that emphasize a politics of difference.
In this book, Frederick Luis Aldama follows an entirely different approach. He investigates the ways in which race and gay/lesbian sexuality intersect and operate in Chicano/a literature and film while taking into full account their imaginative nature and therefore the specific kind of work invested in them. Also, Aldama frames his analyses within today's larger (globalized) context of postcolonial literary and filmic canons that seek to normalize heterosexual identity and experience. Throughout the book, Aldama applies his innovative approach to throw new light on the work of authors Arturo Islas, Richard Rodriguez, John Rechy, Ana Castillo, and Sheila Ortiz Taylor, as well as that of film director Edward James Olmos. In doing so, Aldama aims to integrate and deepen Chicano literary and filmic studies within a comparative perspective. Aldama's unusual juxtapositions of narrative materials and cultural personae, and his premise that literature and film produce fictional examples of a social and historical reality concerned with ethnic and sexual issues largely unresolved, make this book relevant to a wide range of readers.
Taking on nothing less than the formation of modern genders and sexualities, Thomas A. King develops a history of the political and performative struggles that produced both normative and queer masculinities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The result is a major contribution to gender studies, gay studies, and theater and performance history.
The Gendering of Men, 1600–1750 traces the transition from a society based on alliance, which had subordinated all men, women, and boys to higher ranked males, to one founded in sexuality, through which men have embodied their claims to personal and political privacy. King proposes that the male body is a performative production marking men’s resistance to their subjection within patriarchy and sovereignty. Emphasizing that categories of gender must come under historical analysis, The Gendering of Men explores men’s particpation in an ongoing struggle for access to a universal manliness transcending other biological and social differentials.
This is volume one of two projected volumes.
Contributors. Daniel Balderston, Emilie Bergmann, Israel Burshatin, Brad Epps, Mary S. Gossy, Robert Irwin, Agnes I. Lugo-Ortiz, Sylvia Molloy, Oscar Montero, José Esteban Muñoz, José Quiroga, Rubén Ríos Avila, B. Sifuentes Jáuregui, Paul Julian Smith
New perspectives on Christopher Isherwood as a searching and transnational writer
“Perhaps I had traveled too much, left my heart in too many places,” muses the narrator of Christopher Isherwood’s novel Prater Violet (1945), which he wrote in his adopted home of Los Angeles after years of dislocation and desperation. In Isherwood in Transit, James J.Berg and Chris Freeman bring together diverse Isherwood scholars to understand the challenges this writer faced as a consequence of his travel.
Based on a conference at the Huntington Library, where Isherwood’s recently opened papers are held, Isherwood in Transit considers the writer not as an English, continental, or American writer but as a transnational one, whose identity, politics, and beliefs were constantly transformed by global connections and engagements arising from journeys to Germany, Japan, China, and Argentina; his migration to the United States; and his conversion to Vedanta Hinduism in the 1940s.
Approaching Isherwood’s rootlessness and restlessness from various perspectives, these essays show that long after he made a new home in California and became an American citizen, Christopher Isherwood remained unsettled, although his wanderings became spiritual and personal rather than geographic.
Contributors: Barrie Jean Borich, DePaul U; Jamie Carr, Niagara U; Robert L. Caserio, Penn State U, University Park; Lisa Colletta, American U of Rome; Lois Cucullu, U of Minnesota; Jaime Harker, U of Mississippi; Carola M. Kaplan, California State U, Pomona; Calvin W. Keogh, Central European U, Budapest; Victor Marsh; Wendy Moffat, Dickinson College; Xenobe Purvis; Bidhan Roy, California State U, Los Angeles; Katharine Stevenson, U of Texas at Austin; Edmund White.
Wachman places at the center of this tradition Sylvia Townsend Warner's achievement in undermining the inhibitions that faced women writing about forbidden love. She discusses Warner's use of crosswriting to transpose the otherwise unrepresentable lives of invisible lesbians into narratives about gay men, destabilizing the borders of race, class, and gender and challenging the codes of expression on which imperialist patriarchy and capitalism depended.
Born Eileen Mary Challans in London in 1905, Mary Renault wrote six successful contemporary novels before turning to the historical fiction about ancient Greece for which she is best known. While Renault's novels are still highly regarded, her life and work have never been completely examined. Caroline Zilboorg seeks to remedy this in The Masks of Mary Renault by exploring Renault's identity as a gifted writer and a sexual woman in a society in which neither of these identities was clear or easy.
Although Renault's life was anything but ordinary, this fact has often been obscured by her writing. The daughter of a doctor, she grew up comfortably and attended a boarding school in Bristol. She received a degree in English from St. Hugh's College in Oxford in 1928, but she chose not to pursue an academic career. Instead, she decided to attend the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, where she trained to be a nurse. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was assigned to the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol and briefly worked with Dunkirk evacuees. She went on to work in the Radcliffe Infirmary's brain surgery ward and was there until 1945.
It was during her nurse's training that Renault met Julie Mullard, who became her lifelong companion. This important lesbian relationship both resolved and posed many problems for Renault, not the least of which was how she was to write about issues at once intensely personal and socially challenging. In 1939, Renault published her first novel under a pseudonym in order to mask her identity. It was a time when she was struggling not only with her vocation (nursing and writing), but also with her sexual identity in the social and moral context of English life during the war.
In 1948, Renault left England with Mullard for South Africa and never returned. It was in South Africa that she made the shift from her early contemporary novels of manners to the mature historical novels of Hellenic life. The classical settings allowed Renault to mask material too explosive to deal with directly while simultaneously giving her an "academic" freedom to write about subjects vital to her—among them war, peace, career, women's roles, female and male homosexuality, and bisexuality.
Renault's reception complicates an understanding of her achievement, for she has a special status within the academic community, where she is both widely read and little written about. Her interest in sexuality and specifically in homosexuality and bisexuality, in fluid gender roles and identities, warrants a rereading and reevaluation of her work. Eloquently written and extensively researched, The Masks of Mary Renault will be of special value to anyone interested in women's studies or English literature.
Scott Derrick has written an original book that contributes significantly to current revisions of the nineteenth-century American literary tradition's representation of gender and sexuality. His interpretation of feminist, lesbian-feminist, and gay issues in nineteenth-century American literature as complementary enlarges our historical understanding and helps build the coalition politics needed in these areas."-John Carlos Rowe, University of California, Irvine
Recent gender-based scholarship on nineteenth-century American literature has established male authors' crucial awareness of the competition from popular women writers. And critical work in gay studies and queer theory has stressed the importance in canonical American literature of homoerotic relations between men, even before "homosexuality" became codified at the end of the century. Scott Derrick draws on these insights to explore the ways in which male authors struggle to refigure literature-historically devalued as feminine-as a masculine and heterosexual enterprise. Derrick focuses on scenes of compositional crisis that reveal how male identity itself is at risk in the perils and possibilities of being a male author in a feminized literary marketplace.
He suggests that traditionally valued texts by Hawthorne, Poe, James, Sinclair, and Crane have at their core combustible four-sided conflicts between feminine identifications and masculine distancings, homoerotic longings and homophobic dreads, conflicts which are largely determined by domestic ideals of male and female roles within the nineteenth-century family. The negotiation of such conflicts is controlled by the nature of fiction writing, which both frees the imagination to explore forbidden fantasies and harnesses the imagination to public understandings of the proper form and content of fiction. Thus Monumental Anxieties also contributes to recent debates about the social shaping of contemporary homosexuality and to the history of American masculinity.
Considering novels along with journalism, theatrical performances, correspondences, and face-to-face encounters, Lucey focuses on the interlocking social and formal dimensions of using the first person. He argues for understanding the first person not just as a grammatical category but also as a collectively produced social artifact, demonstrating that Proust’s, Gide’s, and Colette’s use of the first person involved a social process of assuming the authority to speak about certain issues, or on behalf of certain people. Lucey reveals these three writers as both practitioners and theorists of the first person; he traces how, when they figured themselves or other first persons in certain statements regarding same-sex identity, they self-consciously called attention to the creative effort involved in doing so.
Contributors. Stephen Barber, Renu Bora, Anne Chandler, James Creech, Tyler Curtain, Jonathan Goldberg, Joseph Litvak, Michael Lucey, Jeff Nunokawa, Cindy Patton, Jacob Press, Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Melissa Solomon, Kathryn Bond Stockton, John Vincent, Maurice Wallace, Barry Weller
Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend explores the meteoric rise, sudden fall, and legendary resurgence of an immensely influential writer’s reputation from his hectic 1881 American lecture tour to recent Hollywood adaptations of his dramas. Always renowned—if not notorious—for his fashionable persona, Wilde courted celebrity at an early age. Later, he came to prominence as one of the most talented essayists and fiction writers of his time.
In the years leading up to his two-year imprisonment, Wilde stood among the foremost dramatists in London. But after he was sent down for committing acts of “gross indecency” it seemed likely that social embarrassment would inflict irreparable damage to his legacy. As this volume shows, Wilde died in comparative obscurity. Little could he have realized that in five years his name would come back into popular circulation thanks to the success of Richard Strauss’s opera Salome and Robert Ross’s edition of De Profundi. With each succeeding decade, the twentieth century continued to honor Wilde’s name by keeping his plays in repertory, producing dramas about his life, adapting his works for film, and devising countless biographical and critical studies of his writings.
This volume reveals why, more than a hundred years after his demise, Wilde’s value in the academic world, the auction house, and the entertainment industry stands higher than that of any modern writer.
In recent decades, Chicana/o literary and cultural productions have dramatically shifted from a nationalist movement that emphasized unity to one that openly celebrates diverse experiences. Charting this transformation, Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture looks to the late 1970s, during a resurgence of global culture, as a crucial turning point whose reverberations in twenty-first-century late capitalism have been profound.
Arguing for a postnationalism that documents the radical politics and aesthetic processes of the past while embracing contemporary cultural and sociopolitical expressions among Chicana/o peoples, Hernández links the multiple forces at play in these interactions. Reconfiguring text-based analysis, she looks at the comparative development of movements within women's rights and LGBTQI activist circles. Incorporating economic influences, this unique trajectory leads to a new conception of border studies as well, rethinking the effects of a restructured masculinity as a symbol of national cultural transformation. Ultimately positing that globalization has enhanced the emergence of new Chicana/o identities, Hernández cultivates important new understandings of borderlands identities and postnationalism itself.
Queer Between the Covers presents a history of radical queer publishing and literature from 1880 to the modern day. Chronicling the gay struggle for acceptance and liberation, the book demonstrates how the fight for representation was often waged between the covers of books in a world where spaces for queer expression were taboo. The chapters provide an array of voices and histories from the famous, Derek Jarman and Oscar Wilde, to the lesser known and underappreciated, such as John Wieners and Valerie Taylor. It includes firsthand accounts of seminal moments in queer history, including the birth of Hazard Press and the Defend Gay’s the Word Bookshop campaign in the 1980s.
Queer Between the Covers demonstrates the importance of the book and how the queer community could be brought together through shared literature. The works discussed show the imaginative and radical ways in which queer texts have fought against censorship and repression and could be used as a political tool for organization and production. This study follows key moments in queer literary history, from the powerful community wide demonstrations for Gay’s the Word during their battle with the British government, to the mapping of Chicago’s queer spaces within Valerie Taylor’s pulp novels, or the anonymous but likely shared authorship of the nineteenth century queer text Teleny. Queer publishing also often involved fascinating creative tactics for beating the censor, from the act of self-publishing to anonymous authorship as part of a so-called “cloaked resistance.” Collage and repurposing found images and texts were key practices for many queer publishers and authors, from Derek Jarman to the artworks created by the Hazard Press.
This is a fascinating and topical book on publishing history for those interested in how queer people throughout modernity have used literature as an important forum for self-expression and self-actualization when spaces and sites for queer expression were outlawed.
Contributors. Josiah Blackmore, Linde M. Brocato, Catherine Brown, Israel Burshatin, Daniel Eisenberg, E. Michael Gerli, Roberto J. González-Casanovas, Gregory S. Hutcheson, Mark D. Jordan, Sara Lipton, Benjamin Liu, Mary Elizabeth Perry, Michael Solomon, Louise O. Vasvári, Barbara Weissberger
In this dynamic collection of essays, many leading literary scholars trace gay and lesbian themes in Latin American, Hispanic, and U.S. Latino literary and cultural texts. Reading and Writing the Ambiente is consciously ambitious and far-ranging, historically as well as geographically. It includes discussions of texts from as early as the seventeenth century to writings of the late twentieth century.
Reading and Writing the Ambiente also underscores the ways in which lesbian and gay self-representation in Hispanic texts differs from representations in Anglo-American texts. The contributors demonstrate that—unlike the emphasis on the individual in Anglo- American sexual identity—Latino, Spanish, and Latin American sexual identity is produced in the surrounding culture and community, in the ambiente. As one of the first collections of its kind, Reading and Writing the Ambiente is expressive of the next wave of gay Hispanic and Latin scholarship.
In this book, Robin Hackett examines portrayals of race, class, and sexuality in modernist texts by white women to argue for the existence of a literary device that she calls “Sapphic primitivism.” The works vary widely in their form and content and include Olive Schreiner’s proto-modernist exploration of New Womanhood, The Story of an African Farm; Virginia Woolf’s high modernist “play-poem,” The Waves; Sylvia Townsend Warner’s historical novel, Summer Will Show; and Willa Cather’s Southern pastoral, Sapphira and the Slave Girl. In each, blackness and working-class culture are figured to represent sexual autonomy, including lesbianism, for white women. Sapphic primitivism exposes the ways several classes of identification were intertwined with the development of homosexual identities at the turn of the century. Sapphic primitivism is not, however, a means of disguising lesbian content. Rather, it is an aesthetic displacement device that simultaneously exposes lesbianism and exploits modern, primitivist modes of self-representation. Hackett’s revelations of the mutual interests of those who study early twentieth-century constructions of race and sexuality and twenty-first-century feminists doing anti-racist and queer work are a major contribution to literary studies and identity theory.
Since the 1991 publication of his groundbreaking book Gay and Lesbian Themes in Latin American Writing, David William Foster has proposed a series of theoretical and critical principles for the analysis of Latin American culture from the perspectives of the queer. This book continues that project with a queer reading of literary and cultural aspects of Latin American texts.
Moving beyond its predecessor, which provided an initial inventory of Latin American gay and lesbian writing, Sexual Textualities analyzes questions of gender representation in Latin American cultural productions to establish the interrelationships, tensions, and irresolvable conflicts between heterosexism and homoeroticism. The topics that Foster addresses include Eva Peron as a cultural/sexual icon, feminine pornography, Luis Humberto Hermosillo's classic gay film Doña Herlinda y su hijo, homoerotic writing and Chicano authors, Matias Montes Huidobro's Exilio and the representation of gay identity, representation of the body in Alejandra Pizarnik's poetry, and the crisis of masculinity in Argentine fiction from 1940 to 1960.
Winner, 2023 Booker Worthern Literary Prize
For nearly a century, British expatriate Charles Joseph Finger (1867–1941) was best known as an award-winning author of children’s literature. In Shared Secrets, Elizabeth Findley Shores relates Finger’s untold story, exploring the secrets that connected the author to an international community of twentieth-century queer literati.
As a young man, Finger reveled in the easy homosociality of his London polytechnical school, where he launched a student literary society in the mold of the city’s private men’s clubs. Throughout his life, as he wandered from England to Patagonia to the United States, he tried to recreate similarly open spaces—such as Gayeta, his would-be art colony in Arkansas. But it was through his idiosyncratic magazine All’s Well that he constructed his most successful social network, writing articles filled with coded signals and winking asides for an inner circle of understanding readers.
Capitalizing on the publishing opportunities of the day, Finger used every means available to express his twin loves—literature and men. He produced an enormous body of work, and his short, semiautobiographical fiction won some critical acclaim. Ultimately, the children’s book that won Finger a Newbery Medal ushered him into the public eye, ending his development as an author of serious queer literature.
Shared Secrets is both the story of Finger’s remarkable, adventurous life and a rare look at a community of gay writers and artists who helped shaped twentieth-century American culture, even as they artfully concealed their own identities.
After a chance meeting aboard the ocean liner Paris in 1924, Harvard University scholar and activist F. O. Matthiessen and artist Russell Cheney fell in love and remained inseparable until Cheney’s death in 1945. During the intervening years, the men traveled throughout Europe and the United States, achieving great professional success while contending with serious personal challenges, including addiction, chronic disease, and severe depression.
During a hospital stay, years into their relationship, Matthiessen confessed to Cheney that “never once has the freshness of your life lost any trace of its magic for me. Every day is a new discovery of your wealth.” Situating the couple’s private correspondence alongside other sources, Scott Bane tells the remarkable story of their relationship in the context of shifting social dynamics in the United States. From the vantage point of the present day, with marriage equality enacted into law, Bane provides a window into the realities faced by same-sex couples in the early twentieth century, as they maintained relationships in the face of overt discrimination and the absence of legal protections.
Unraveling the mysteries of Naked Lunch, exploring the allure of fascination
William Burroughs is both an object of widespread cultural fascination and one of America’s great writers. In this study, Oliver Harris elucidates the complex play of secrecy and revelation that defines the allure of fascination. Unraveling the mystifications of Burroughs the writer, Harris discovers what it means to be fascinated by a figure of major cultural influence and unearths a secret history behind the received story of one of America’s great original writers.
In William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination, Harris examines the major works Burroughs produced in the 1950s—Junky, Queer, The Yage Letters, and Naked Lunch—to piece together an accurate, material record of his creative history during his germinal decade as a writer. Refuting the “junk paradigm” of addiction that has been used to categorize and characterize much of Burroughs’ oeuvre, Harris instead focuses on the significance of Burroughs’ letter writing and his remarkable and unsuspected use of the epistolary for his fiction. As Burroughs said to Allen Ginsberg about Naked Lunch, “the real novel is letters to you.” Drawing on rare access to manuscripts, the book suggests new ways of comprehending Burroughs’s unique politics and aesthetics and offers the first accurate account of the writing of Naked Lunch.
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