This article examines Mark Merlis’s 1994 novel American Studies in order to analyze the performative potential of “queer retrosexualities.” In re-visiting the history of the field through the fictional account of F. O. Matthiessen’s life, Merlis’s novel makes the 50s a primal scene of its narrative. By returning to the 50s, Merlis not only ‘exposes’ the heteronormative exclusions that informed the beginnings of American Studies, he also suggests how a different understanding of temporality could facilitate the creation of queer spaces within the practice of American Studies. I thus argue that the “retrosexual” narrative of the novel thus perform a queering of the field of American Studies.


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