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"Reading is a many-layered process -- like writing," observes Samuel R. Delany, a Nebula and Hugo award-winning author and a major commentator on American literature and culture. In this collection of six extended essays, Delany challenges what he calls "the hard-edged boundaries of meaning" by going beyond the customary limits of the genre in which he's writing. By radically reworking the essay form, Delany can explore and express the many layers of his thinking about the nature of art, the workings of language, and the injustices and ironies of social, political, and sexual marginalization. Thus Delany connects, in sometimes unexpected ways, topics as diverse as the origins of modern theater, the context of lesbian and gay scholarship, the theories of cyborgs, how metaphors mean, and the narrative structures in the Star Wars trilogy.
"Over the course of his career," Kenneth James writes in his extensive introduction, "Delany has again and again thrown into question the world-models that all too many of us unknowingly live by." Indeed, Delany challenges an impressive list of world-models here, including High and Low Art, sanity and madness, mathematical logic and the mechanics of mythmaking, the distribution of wealth in our society, and the limitations of our sexual vocabulary. Also included are two essays that illustrate Delany's unique chrestomathic technique, the grouping of textual fragments whose associative interrelationships a reader must actively trace to read them as a resonant argument. Whether writing about Wagner or Hart Crane, Foucault or Robert Mapplethorpe, Delany combines a fierce and often piercing vision with a powerful honesty that beckons us to share in the perspective of these Longer Views.
Sexual Style, Race, and Lesbian Identity
Looks can be deceiving, and in a society where one's status and access to opportunity are largely attendant on physical appearance, the issue of how difference is constructed and interpreted, embraced or effaced, is of tremendous import.
Lisa Walker examines this issue with a focus on the questions of what it means to look like a lesbian, and what it means to be a lesbian but not to look like one. She analyzes the historical production of the lesbian body as marked, and studies how lesbians have used the frequent analogy between racial difference and sexual orientation to craft, emphasize, or deny physical difference. In particular, she explores the implications of a predominantly visible model of sexual identity for the feminine lesbian, who is both marked and unmarked, desired and disavowed.
Walker's textual analysis cuts across a variety of genres, including modernist fiction such as The Well of Loneliness and Wide Sargasso Sea, pulp fiction of the Harlem Renaissance, the 1950s and the 1960s, post-modern literature as Michelle Cliff's Abeng, and queer theory.
In the book's final chapter, "How to Recognize a Lesbian," Walker argues that strategies of visibility are at times deconstructed, at times reinscribed within contemporary lesbian-feminist theory.
Artists in the Age of AIDS
When an artist dies we face two great losses: the person and the work he did not live to do. Loss within Loss is a moving collaboration by some of America's most eloquent writers, who supply wry, raging, sorrowful, and buoyant accounts of artist friends and lovers struck down by AIDS. These essayists include Maya Angelou, Alan Gurganus, Brad Gooch, John Berendt, Craig Lucas, Robert Rosenblum, and eighteen others. Many of the subjects of the essays were already prominent—James Merrill, Paul Monette, David Wojnarowicz—but many others died young, before they were able to fulfil the promise of their lives and art. Loss within Loss spans all of the arts and includes portraits of choreographers, painters, poets, actors, playwrights, sculptors, editors, composers, and architects.This landmark book is published in association with the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, a national organization that preserves art works created by artists living with HIV or lost to AIDS. Loss within Loss stands as a powerful reminder of the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic on the arts community and as the first real survey of that devastation. Though these accounts are often intensely sad, Loss within Loss is an invigorating, sometimes even exuberant, testimony to the sheer joy of being an artist . . . and being alive.
A Memoir of Our Immigrant Lives
And Other Intimate Literary Portraits of the Bohemian Era
Long before Stonewall, young Air Force veteran Edward Field, fresh from combat in WWII, threw himself into New York’s literary bohemia, searching for fulfillment as a gay man and poet. In this vivid account of his avant-garde years in Greenwich Village and the bohemian outposts of Paris’s Left Bank and Tangier—where you could write poetry, be radical, and be openly gay—Field opens the closet door to reveal, as never been seen before, some of the most important writers of his time.
Here are young, beautiful Susan Sontag sitting at the feet of her idol Alfred Chester, who shrewdly plotted to marry her; May Swenson and her two loves; Paul and Jane Bowles in their ambiguous marriage; Frank O’Hara in and out of bed; Fritz Peters, the anointed son of Gurdjieff; and James Baldwin, Isabel Miller (Patience and Sarah), Tobias Schneebaum, Robert Friend, and many others. With its intimate portraits, Field’s memoir brings back a forgotten era—postwar bohemia—bawdy, comical, romantic, sad, and heroic.
Debating Same-Sex Marriage within the Lesbian and Gay Movement
As the fight for same-sex marriage rages across the United States and lesbian and gay couples rush to marriage license counters, the goal of marriage is still fiercely questioned within the LGBT movement. Rarely has an objective so central to a social movement’s political agenda been so controversial within the movement itself. While antigay forces work to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, lesbian and gay activists are passionately arguing about the desirability, viability, and social consequences of same-sex marriage.
The Marrying Kind? is the first book to draw on empirical research to examine these debates and how they are affecting marriage equality campaigns. The essays in this volume analyze the rhetoric, strategies, and makeup of the LGBT social movement organizations pushing for same-sex marriage, and address the dire predictions of some LGBT commentators that same-sex marriage will spell the end of queer identity and community. Case studies from California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Canada illuminate the complicated politics of same-sex marriage, making clear that the current disagreements among LGBT activists over whether marriage is conforming or transformative are far too simplistic. Instead, the impact of the marriage equality movement is complex and often contradictory, neither fully assimilationist nor fully oppositional.
Contributors: Ellen Ann Andersen, U of Vermont; Mary C. Burke, U of Vermont; Adam Isaiah Green, U of Toronto; Melanie Heath, McMaster U, Ontario; Kathleen E. Hull, U of Minnesota; Katrina Kimport, U of California, San Francisco; Jeffrey Kosbie; Katie Oliviero, U of Colorado, Boulder; Kristine A. Olsen; Timothy A. Ortyl; Arlene Stein, Rutgers U; Amy L. Stone, Trinity U; Nella Van Dyke, U of California, Merced.
Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America
An analysis of unpublished letters to the first American gay magazine reveals the agency, adaptation, and resistance occurring in the gay community during the McCarthy era. In this compelling social history, Craig M. Loftin describes how gay people in the United States experienced the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when rapidly growing gay and lesbian subcultures suffered widespread discrimination. The book is based on a remarkable and unique historical source: letters written to ONE magazine, the first openly gay publication in the United States. These letters, most of which have never before been published, provide extraordinary insight into the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of gay men and lesbians nationwide, especially as they coped with the anxieties of the McCarthy era. The letters reveal how gay people dealt with issues highly relevant to LGBT life today, including job discrimination, police harassment, marriage, homophobia in families, and persecution in churches and the military. Loftin shows that gay men and lesbians responded to intolerance and bigotry with resilience, creativity, and an invigorated belief in their right to live their lives as gay men and lesbians long before this was accepted and considered safe. Groundbreaking chapters address gay marriage and family life, international gay activism, and how antigay federal government policies reverberated throughout the country.
Christopher Isherwood in America
How could one write about gay life for the mainstream public in Cold War America? Many midcentury gay American writers, hampered by external and internal censors, never managed to do it. But Christopher Isherwood did, and what makes his accomplishment more remarkable is that while he was negotiating his identity as a gay writer, he was reinventing himself as an American one. Jaime Harker shows that Isherwood refashioned himself as an American writer following his emigration from England by immersing himself in the gay reading, writing, and publishing communities in Cold War America.
Drawing extensively on Isherwood’s archives, including manuscript drafts and unpublished correspondence with readers, publishers, and other writers, Middlebrow Queer demonstrates how Isherwood mainstreamed gay content for heterosexual readers in his postwar novels while also covertly writing for gay audiences and encouraging a symbiotic relationship between writer and reader. The result—in such novels as The World in the Evening, Down There on a Visit, A Single Man, and A Meeting by the River—was a complex, layered form of writing that Harker calls “middlebrow camp,” a mode that extended the boundaries of both gay and middlebrow fiction.
Weaving together biography, history, and literary criticism, Middlebrow Queer traces the continuous evolution of Isherwood’s simultaneously queer and American postwar authorial identity. In doing so, the book illuminates many aspects of Cold War America’s gay print cultures, from gay protest novels to “out” pulp fiction.