- Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936–1968 by Michael P. Bibler (review)
- Mississippi Quarterly
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 64, Numbers 1-2, Winter-Spring 2011
- pp. 317-320
- View Citation
- Additional Information
317 Book Reviews appearing in the bibliography. Odd again is the absence of any reference to Kawin’s edition of Faulkner’s MGM screenplays and treatments (1982). What I am still waiting for is a study that collates the titles, dates (not just years), number of pages, credited author/s, and archival location of every draft of each of the properties Faulkner worked on. This is of course no mean feat: most of Faulkner’s screen writings are held in various archival collections across the United States. Such a meticulous bibliographic undertaking would shift the focus of Faulkner and film studies from the cinematic Faulkner to, as Liénard-Yeterian puts it, Bill the screenwriter, and would thus open up a whole new set of relations, perhaps as yet unforeseen, between industrial writer and literary artist. Faulkner et le cinéma is certainly an important step in this direction. University of Sydney SARAH GLEESON-WHITE Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968, by Michael P. Bibler. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. x, 298 pp. $55 cloth. $22.50 paper. THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE PLANTATION IN THE USHAS BEEN A NOT SO SECRET agent of the Lost Cause in a cultural history stretching from the nineteenth- century saccharine apologias of John Pendleton Kennedy to the still lucrative cottage industry of plantation tours led by “hostesses” who cloak themselves in hoopskirts and the history of America’s “peculiar institution” in euphemisms. For every image of “moonlight and magnolias,” though, there is one that counters its impressionistic strokes with the stark lines of realism or the bold hues of parody. This demystification of the plantation can be traced from the antebellum slave narratives, which expose the violence and brutality underwriting the plantation social order, to postmodern offerings such as the recent storyline in HBO’s True Blood, featuring the maniacal Vampire King of Mississippi writ as Southern plantation gent. What is rare to find in representations of and responses to the plantation mythos in American culture is nuance—a lack that Michael P. Bibler’s compelling study, Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the 318 Mississippi Quarterly Southern Plantation, 1936-1938, works to fill. At once provocative and counterintuitive, Bibler’s take on the plantationchallengesustomovebeyondtheusualreductiveconceptions —as an imagined community of lost agrarian harmony or a site for imposition of hegemonic control through violence. Rather, Bibler calls our attention to a set of diverse texts from the mid-twentieth century that “effectively refashion the plantation into an intrinsically queer cultural space—a space where queer southerners appear to live, sometimes freely and openly, as central players in the South” (2). For Bibler, the selected texts share “a similar conceptual engagement” with same-sex relationships in the South and, in so doing, function in a broader, “rather liberal political engagement with the South’s past” (3). Broad, too, is Bibler’s conception of same-sex intimacy, but not to the study’s detriment. This approach steers Cotton’s Queer Relations safely away from the simplistic practice of critical “outing”—in this case, of merely aiming to open wide the plantation closet doors to expose “actual” homosexuality. Instead, Bibler sets out to demonstrate how the texts under examination “actively consider varying constructions of same-sex intimacy within their depictions of the southern plantation— which they also consider in a wide variety of forms—for one remarkably consistent purpose: to imagine the possibilities for social equality in the South” (3). There’s the innovative rub. Representations of the plantation read not only as romanticized or oppressive spaces but also as unlikely incubators of alterity in the South. To develop this argument, Bibler makes a useful distinction between “sameness” as an indicator of affinity defined in terms of race, class, gender, sex, or other categories and “homo-ness,” a term that Bibler adapts from Leo Bersani’s influential Homos (1995) to denote “the effect produced when sexual sameness supercedes all other factors of identity to establish, however provisionally, an egalitarian social bond between individuals” depicted in plantation narratives (7). Bibler’s decision to use 1936 as the starting point of the study’s...