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Anachronizing the Penitentiary, Queering the History of Sexuality
Abstract

Abstract:

The backward turn to anachronistic forms of punishment and bygone historical periods in Jean Genet's 1946 memoir-novel, Miracle of the Rose, is not fully intelligible either as a retrograde resistance to "progressive" politics or as a compensation for the impossibility of same-sex desire in the novel's present, as Genet critics and literary critics of pre-Stonewall texts have tried to argue. Rather, Miracle's anachronisms open a temporal fold for queer modes of belonging, pleasure, and even paradise that, though historically experienced, remain unintelligible within forward-thrusting histories of sexuality, narratives of maturation, and discourses of penal reform. This article proposes that Miracle's cultural work on anachronism is not happenstance but necessitated, first, by the criminological and psychiatric construction of the homosexual pervert and the delinquent as linked figures of anachronism—of atavism, degeneration, and perverse development—and second, by the modern penitentiary's disciplinary organization of time. Precisely because of its status as a flashpoint within discourses of delinquency and of criminal reeducation, anachronism may constitute a resource for elaborating countertemporalities congenial to queer modes of belonging.



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