Abstract

Troubling Our Heads About Ichabod: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Classic American Literature, and the Sexual Politics of Homosocial Brotherhood offers a close reading of Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" that considers its treatment of the figure of the solitary Ichabod in light of recent treatments of the story as representative of powerful bonds between men. This essay considers Irving's construction of Woman as an uncannily mysterious force that traps Ichabod Crane into compulsory heterosexuality; it also considers the ways in which the story pits isolate, inviolate manhood against fraternity. In addition, the recent film version of Irving's story and two other film adaptations of classic American literature are treated in order to broaden and support the central claim that a highly diversified and ongoing fetishization of fraternity dominates American thought. Given the commonplace nature of the critical position that reproductive heterosexualityÑwhen considered as, in Michael Warner's view, " repronarrative"Ñis a compulsory demand of capitalist citizenship, one might also imagine that, with their widely documented sheer social pervasiveness, same-sex intimacies would now be taken as a given in studies of the nineteenth century. Surprisingly, however, a diverse array of critics, commentators, and theorists continue to treat nineteenth century (and current forms of) homosociality as transgressive. Despite the multiple critiques from feminist and queer scholars, fraternalist fantasies continue to proliferate not only in treatments of nineteenth century American literature but also in certain men's studies and queer theory texts, which would otherwise certainly seem like unlikely allies. Hollywood film adaptations of classic American literature also reinforce fraternalist biases. This essay primarily critiques the willingness in literary criticism, men's studies, queer theory, and mainstream film to celebrate homoaffectional bonds at the expense of ignoring the evidence of the compulsory nature of homosocial ties, the recurring literary interest in treating the homosocial as a field of competitive cruelty, and the abject status of the isolate outsider who has not been assimilated into male collectives.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 83-110
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-18
Open Access
No
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