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The Queer Renaissance

Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities

Robert McRuer

Publication Year: 1997

Before the 1969 Stonewall Riots ushered in the contemporary gay liberation movement, overt representations of same-sex desire in American literature and the arts were few and far between. Even in the 1970s, when gay and lesbian cultures began to register on our national consciousness, such work was still quite rare.

In the 1980s and 90s, however, all that changed. The Queer Renaissance puts a name to the unprecedented outpouring of creative work by openly lesbian and gay novelists, poets, and playwrights in the past two decades. This volume is one of the first to analyze critically this cultural awakening and is one of the only books to consider the work of gay male and lesbian writers together. Most importantly, The Queer Renaissance is the first book to consider how this wave of creative activity has worked in tandem with a flourishing of radical queer politics.

The Queer Renaissance explores the work of such important figures as Audre Lorde, Edmund White, Randall Kenan, Gloria Anzalda, Tony Kushner, and Sarah Schulman to question the dichotomy between art and activism. In addition, The Queer Renaissance interrogates the ways queer theory deploys, intersects with, and contests contemporary theoretical movements such as cultural studies, feminist theory, African American theory, and Chicano/a theory.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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p. v

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pp. vii-x

Every year, countless Americans from the forty-eight contiguous states flock to Hawaii, making tourism that state's number one industry. Travel agents, hotels, and airlines entice tourists by shaping the Aloha State into the land of beauty, romance, and imagination. A recent Vacations by Sheraton brochure, for instance, announces, "Hawaii is as much a place of mind as it is a place on the map. A peaceful paradise where golden sunshine ...

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p. xi

I am grateful to Eric Gardner, Robert Nowatzki, and Michael Thurston for their careful reading of each draft of this book. Our many hours of conversation about this project have been invaluable. I especially thank Michael Berube for his ongoing assistance, encouragement, and inspiration, and for his thoughtful criticism of my work at various stages. ...

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Introduction: Reading the Queer Renaissance

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pp. 1-31

In one of the most fabulous moments in the introduction to her Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Sedgwick considers the analysis and recovery work being done in gay and lesbian literary studies on the Harlem Renaissance, the New England Renaissance, and the Renaissance in Italy and England. As Sedgwick sees it, an antihomophobic inquiry into each of these renaissances ...

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Chapter One Boys' Own Stories and New Spellings of My Name: Coming Out and Other Myths of Queer Positionality

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pp. 32-68

In The Beautiful Room Is Empty, Edmund White's nameless narrator envisions a day when gay people will claim the right to define themselves: "Then I caught myself foolishly imagining that gays might someday constitute a community rather than a diagnosis" (226). This exhilarating thought comes to White's protagonist as he finds himself in the middle of ...

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Chapter Two Queer Locations/Queer Transformations

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pp. 69-115

"Vito Russo pointed out in cinema . . . that historically, the gay character always had to end up with his head in the oven or in some similar state/' Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explained in a 1991 interview "It was like a Hays rule that you had to come to a bad end. Giovanni's Room isn't really an exception to this; and in Randall Kenan's book you get a brilliant tormented ...

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Chapter Three Unlimited Access? Queer Theory in the Borderlands

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pp. 116-154

I want to begin in a queer place. My central text in this chapter is Gloria Anzaldua's eclectic mix of theory, poetry, and nonfiction prose in her 1987 collection Borderlands I La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and my central subjects are those Anzaldua calls los atravesados: "the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the halfbreed, the half ...

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Chapter Four Queer Identities in a Crisis

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pp. 155-204

And then came Angels in America. There is something predictable, perhaps, about ending with the play that has received more attention than any gay or lesbian work of the past fifteen years, and indeed, more attention than any American play of the past half century. Tony Kushner's Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a two-part, ...

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Epilogue: Post-Queer?

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pp. 205-213

By concluding with Sarah Schulman, ACT UP, and queers in the street, I have come full circle, since my first chapter concluded with Audre Lorde and the resistant identities she observed being shaped and reshaped in the streets a decade earlier: "My lasting image of that spring .. . was of women whom I knew . . . and women whose names were unknown to me, leading ...


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pp. 215-236

Works Cited

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pp. 237-248


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pp. 249-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780814759691
E-ISBN-10: 0814759696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814755549
Print-ISBN-10: 0814755542

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 1997

OCLC Number: 45844004
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Queer Renaissance

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Subject Headings

  • Literature and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Gays -- United States -- Intellectual life.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Gays' writings, American -- History and criticism.
  • Homosexuality and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Queer theory.
  • Gay men in literature.
  • Lesbians in literature.
  • Sexual orientation in literature.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
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