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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality > LGBT Studies

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Cruising Utopia Cover

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Cruising Utopia

The Then and There of Queer Futurity

Jose Munoz

The LGBT agenda for too long has been dominated by pragmatic issues like same-sex marriage and gays in the military. It has been stifled by this myopic focus on the present, which is short-sighted and assimilationist.

Cruising Utopia seeks to break the present stagnancy by cruising ahead. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch, José Esteban Muñoz recalls the queer past for guidance in presaging its future. He considers the work of seminal artists and writers such as Andy Warhol, LeRoi Jones, Frank O’Hara, Ray Johnson, Fred Herko, Samuel Delany, and Elizabeth Bishop, alongside contemporary performance and visual artists like Dynasty Handbag, My Barbarian, Luke Dowd, Tony Just, and Kevin McCarty in order to decipher the anticipatory illumination of art and its uncanny ability to open windows to the future.

In a startling repudiation of what the LGBT movement has held dear, Muñoz contends that queerness is instead a futurity bound phenomenon, a "not yet here" that critically engages pragmatic presentism. Part manifesto, part love-letter to the past and the future, Cruising Utopia argues that the here and now are not enough and issues an urgent call for the revivification of the queer political imagination.

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Cultural Erotics in Cuban America

Ricardo L. Ortíz

Miami is widely considered the center of Cuban-American culture. However vital to the diasporic communities’ identity, Miami is not the only—or necessarily the most profound—site of cultural production. Looking beyond South Florida, Ricardo L. Ortíz addresses the question of Cuban-American diaspora and cultural identity by exploring the histories and self-sustaining practices of smaller communities in such U.S. cities as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

In this wide-ranging work Ortíz argues for the authentically diasporic quality of postrevolutionary, off-island Cuban experience. Highlighting various forms of cultural expression, Cultural Erotics in Cuban America traces underrepresented communities’ responses to the threat of cultural disappearance in an overwhelming and hegemonic U.S. culture. Ortíz shows how the work of Cuban-American writers and artists challenges the heteronormativity of both home and host culture. Focusing on artists who have had an ambivalent, indirect, or nonexistent connection to Miami, he presents close readings of such novelists as Reinaldo Arenas, Roberto G. Fernández, Achy Obejas, and Cristina García, the playwright Eduardo Machado, the poet Rafael Campo, and musical performers Albita Rodríguez and Celia Cruz.

Ortíz charts the legacies of sexism and homophobia in patriarchal Cuban culture, as well as their influence on Cuban-revolutionary and Cuban-exile ideologies. Moving beyond the outdated cultural terms of the Cold War, he looks forward to envision queer futures for Cuban-American culture free from the ties to restrictive—indeed, oppressive—constructions of nation, place, language, and desire.

Ricardo L. Ortíz is associate professor of English at Georgetown University.

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Dancing Ledge

Derek Jarman

From his sexual awakening in postwar England to life in the sixties and beyond, Derek Jarman tells his life story with the in-your-face immediacy that became his trademark style in both his films and writing. Accompanied by nearly one hundred photographs of Jarman, his friends, lovers, and inspirations, the candid accounts in Dancing Ledge provide intimate and incredibly vivid glimpses into this iconoclastic filmmaker's life and times.

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Dead Letters Sent

Queer Literary Transmission

Kevin Ohi

Literary texts that address tradition and the transmission of knowledge often seem concerned less with preservation than with loss, recurrently describing scenarios of what author Kevin Ohi terms “thwarted transmission.” Such scenes, however, do not so much concede the impossibility of survival as look into what constitutes literary knowledge and whether it can properly be said to be an object to be transmitted, preserved, or lost.

Beginning with general questions of transmission—the conveying of knowledge in pedagogy, the transmission and material preservation of texts and forms of knowledge, and even the impalpable communication between text and reader—Dead Letters Sent examines two senses of “queer transmission.” First, it studies the transmission of a minority sexual culture, of queer ways of life and the specialized knowledges they foster. Second, it examines the queer potential of literary and cultural transmission, the queerness that is sheltered within tradition itself. By exploring how these two senses are intertwined, it builds a persuasive argument for the relevance of queer criticism to literary study. Its detailed attention to works by Plato, Shakespeare, Swinburne, Pater, Wilde, James, and Faulkner seeks to formulate a practice of reading adequate to the queerness Ohi’s book uncovers within the literary tradition.

Ohi identifies a radical new future for both queer theory and close reading: the possibility that each might exceed itself in merging with the other, creating a queer theory of literary tradition immanent in an immersed practice of reading.

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Decolonizing the Sodomite

Queer Tropes of Sexuality in Colonial Andean Culture

By Michael J. Horswell

Early Andean historiography reveals a subaltern history of indigenous gender and sexuality that saw masculinity and femininity not as essential absolutes. Third-gender ritualists, Ipas, mediated between the masculine and feminine spheres of culture in important ceremonies and were recorded in fragments of myths and transcribed oral accounts. Ritual performance by cross-dressed men symbolically created a third space of mediation that invoked the mythic androgyne of the pre-Hispanic Andes. The missionaries and civil authorities colonizing the Andes deemed these performances transgressive and sodomitical. In this book, Michael J. Horswell examines alternative gender and sexuality in the colonial Andean world, and uses the concept of the third gender to reconsider some fundamental paradigms of Andean culture. By deconstructing what literary tropes of sexuality reveal about Andean pre-Hispanic and colonial indigenous culture, he provides an alternative history and interpretation of the much-maligned aboriginal subjects the Spanish often referred to as “sodomites.” Horswell traces the origin of the dominant tropes of masculinist sexuality from canonical medieval texts to early modern Spanish secular and moralist literature produced in the context of material persecution of effeminates and sodomites in Spain. These values traveled to the Andes and were used as powerful rhetorical weapons in the struggle to justify the conquest of the Incas.

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Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

Jim Ellis

Best known as an iconoclastic, wildly inventive filmmaker, Derek Jarman was also an accomplished author, painter, and landscape artist. In Derek Jarman's Angelic Conversations, Jim Ellis considers Jarman's wide-ranging oeuvre to present a broad perspective on the career and life of one of the most provocative, engaged, and important artists of the twentieth century.

Derek Jarman's Angelic Conversations analyzes Jarman's work-including his famous films Caravaggio, Jubilee, Edward II, Blue, and Sebastiane-in relation to his critiques of the government and his activism in the gay community, from the liberationist movement to the AIDS epidemic. While others have frequently focused on Jarman's biography, Ellis looks at how his politics and aesthetics are intertwined to comprehend his most radical aspects, particularly in films such as War Requiem and The Last of England.

Here Jarman is revealed as an artist who keenly understood the role of history and mythology in creating a personal and national identity: as an activist, he sought to challenge old histories while producing new ones to carve out a space for alternative communities in Britain late in the twentieth century.

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Dying Unneeded

The Cultural Context of the Russian Mortality Crisis

Michelle Parsons

In the early 1990s, Russia experienced one of the most extreme increases in mortality in modern history. Men's life expectancy dropped by six years; women's life expectancy dropped by three. Middle-aged men living in Moscow were particularly at risk of dying early deaths. While the early 1990s represent the apex of mortality, the crisis continues. Drawing on fieldwork in the capital city during 2006 and 2007, this account brings ethnography to bear on a topic that has until recently been the province of epidemiology and demography.

Middle-aged Muscovites talk about being unneeded (ne nuzhny), or having little to give others. Considering this concept of "being unneeded" reveals how political economic transformation undermined the logic of social relations whereby individuals used their position within the Soviet state to give things to other people. Being unneeded is also gendered--while women are still needed by their families, men are often unneeded by state or family. Western literature on the mortality crisis focuses on a lack of social capital, often assuming that what individuals receive is most important, but being needed is more about what individuals give. Social connections--and their influence on health--are culturally specific.

In Soviet times, needed people helped friends and acquaintances push against the limits of the state, crafting a sense of space and freedom. When the state collapsed, this sense of bounded freedom was compromised, and another freedom became deadly.

This book is a recipient of the annual Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best project in the area of medicine.

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Eating Fire

My Life as a Lesbian Avenger

Kelly J. Cogswell

When Kelly Cogswell plunged into New York’s East Village in 1992, she had just come out. An ex–Southern Baptist born in Kentucky, she was camping in an Avenue B loft, scribbling poems, and playing in an underground band, trying to figure out her next move. A couple of months later she was consumed by the Lesbian Avengers, instigating direct action campaigns, battling cops on Fifth Avenue, mobilizing 20,000 dykes for a march on Washington, D.C., and eating fire—literally—in front of the White House.

At once streetwise and wistful, Eating Fire is a witty and urgent coming-of-age memoir spanning two decades, from the Culture War of the early 1990s to the War on Terror. Cogswell’s story is an engaging blend of picaresque adventure, how-to activist handbook, and rigorous inquiry into questions of identity, resistance, and citizenship. It is also a compelling, personal recollection of friendships and fallings-out and of finding true love—several times over. After the Lesbian Avengers imploded, Cogswell describes how she became a pioneering citizen journalist, cofounding the Gully online magazine with the groundbreaking goal of offering “queer views on everything.”

The first in-depth account of the influential Lesbian Avengers, Eating Fire reveals the group’s relationship to the queer art and activist scene in early ’90s New York and establishes the media-savvy Avengers as an important precursor to groups such as Occupy Wall Street and La Barbe, in France. A rare insider’s look at the process and perils of street activism, Kelly Cogswell’s memoir is an uncompromising and ultimately empowering story of creative resistance against hatred and injustice.

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Einstein Intersection

Samuel R. Delany

The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula Award for best science fiction novel of 1967. The surface story tells of the problems a member of an alien race, Lo Lobey, has assimilating the mythology of earth, where his kind have settled among the leftover artifacts of humanity. The deeper tale concerns, however, the way those who are "different" must deal with the dominant cultural ideology. The tale follows Lobey's mythic quest for his lost love, Friza. In luminous and hallucinated language, it explores what new myths might emerge from the detritus of the human world as those who are "different" try to seize history and the day.

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Elizabeth Bowen

A Reputation in Writing

Renee Hoogland

Immensely popular during her lifetime, the Ango-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) has since been treated as a peripheral figure on the literary map. If only in view of her prolific outputten novels, nearly eighty short stories, and a substantial body of non- fictionBowen is a noteworthy novelist. The radical quality of her work, however, renders her an exceptional one.

Surfacing in both subject matter and style, her fictions harbor a subversive potential which has hitherto gone unnoticed. Using a wide range of critical theories-from semiotics to psychoanalysis, from narratology to deconstruction-this book presents a radical re-reading of a selection of Bowen's novels from a lesbian feminist perspective.

Taking into account both cultural contexts and the author's non-fictional writings, the book's main focus is on configurations of gender and sexuality. Bowen's fiction constitutes an exploration of the unstable and destabilizing effects of sexuality in the interdependent processes of subjectivity and what she herself referred to as so-called reality.

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