AIDS in French Culture
Social Ills, Literary Cures
Publication Year: 2001
The deluge of metaphors triggered in 1981 in France by the first public reports of what would turn out to be the AIDS epidemic spread with far greater speed and efficiency than the virus itself. To understand why it took France so long to react to the AIDS crisis, AIDS in French Culture analyzes the intersections of three discourses—the literary, the medical, and the political—and traces the origin of French attitudes about AIDS back to nineteenth-century anxieties about nationhood, masculinity, and sexuality.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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It took me a long time to write this book. Naturally, it went through various stages, and at every step of the way I was lucky to find teachers, colleagues, and friends who were amazingly helpful and supportive. First I want to thank David Carroll and Leslie Rabine, who read the manuscript in its earliest stages and convinced me that it was good and that it was worth it. Then came my colleagues...
Introduction: Where Does AIDS Come from?
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The epidemic of metaphors triggered in July 1981 by the first public reports of what would turn out to be the AIDS epidemic spread with far greater speed and efficiency than the virus itself. While we are repeatedly told that sorting facts from fictions is the simplest way to fight AIDS, we are simultaneously reminded that to do so is not simple at all. The combination of a virus and the collapse...
1. Degeneracy and Inversion: The Male Homosexual as Internal Other
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Much has been written on the role played by nineteenth-century medical discourses in the construction of otherness. For most cultural critics and historians of the period, post-Enlightenment otherness is an ontological category to be embodied by a variety of "Others," usually sexual or racial, and all more or less equivalent to one another thanks to their dichotomous relationship to sameness. From that perspective, otherness can...
2. Gender Indecision and Cultural Anxiety: Outing Zola
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Do Zola's novels have any scientific value at all?1 More specifically, can the theses propounded in Le roman exp�rimental give us any particular insight in our reading of La d�b�cle, Zola's novelization of the French defeat by Prussia in the war of 1870? While Zola's science remains largely dubious, his claims to cure social ills through the art of the novel do deserve attention for, among other things, the...
3. Reclaiming Disease and Infection: Jean Genet and the Politics of the Border
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With Jean Genet's 1949 autobiographical novel, Journal du voleur, this study crosses over to a rhetorical "other side." Unlike Zola, Genet uses disease tropes in order to reverse them, and to write from the point of view of the foreign body. The purpose here is no longer to heal the community through the novel, but rather to infect and subvert both. Journal du voleur, narrated in the first person...
4. A Cultural History of AIDS Discourse: France and the United States
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AIDS is much more than a health crisis. Since 1981, when the first reports of the syndrome were published in medical journals, AIDS has triggered an extraordinary amount of representations of all kinds. To be sure, it isn't the first time that an infectious disease, perceived as inevitably fatal, has found itself saturated with what it is not supposed to have: meaning. Like many previous...
5. AIDS and the Unraveling of Modernity: The Example of Herv� Guibert
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Herv� Guibert's AIDS novels, published between 1990 and 1992, were the first literary testimonies of their kind to enjoy a vast critical and commercial success in France. Many reasons have been put forward to explain why Guibert became such a cultural phenomenon. For some, a young, handsome, dying Herv� Guibert embodied something like a romantic ideal of creativity and early...
Conclusion: French Universalism and the Question of Community
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During a demonstration organized by ACT UP-New York, film historian Vito Russo concluded his speech with these words: "After we kick the shit out of this disease, I intend to be alive to kick the shit out of this system so that it will never happen again."1 In the French context, Mathieu Duplay, a former spokesperson for ACT UP-Paris, once defined the association's new brand of activism...
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Publication Year: 2001