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The Queer Renaissance

The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities

Robert McRuer
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    The Queer Renaissance
    Book Description:

    Before the 1969 Stonewall Riots ushered in the contemporary gay liberation movement, overt representations of same-sex desire in American literature and the arts were few and far between. Even in the 1970s, when gay and lesbian cultures began to register on our national consciousness, such work was still quite rare. In the 1980s and 90s, however, all that changed. The Queer Renaissance puts a name to the unprecedented outpouring of creative work by openly lesbian and gay novelists, poets, and playwrights in the past two decades. This volume is one of the first to analyze critically this cultural awakening and is one of the only books to consider the work of gay male and lesbian writers together. Most importantly, The Queer Renaissance is the first book to consider how this wave of creative activity has worked in tandem with a flourishing of radical queer politics. The Queer Renaissance explores the work of such important figures as Audre Lorde, Edmund White, Randall Kenan, Gloria Anzalda, Tony Kushner, and Sarah Schulman to question the dichotomy between art and activism. In addition, The Queer Renaissance interrogates the ways queer theory deploys, intersects with, and contests contemporary theoretical movements such as cultural studies, feminist theory, African American theory, and Chicano/a theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5969-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction Reading the Queer Renaissance
    (pp. 1-31)

    In one of the most fabulous moments in the introduction to herEpistemology of the Closet, Eve Sedgwick considers the analysis and recovery work being done in gay and lesbian literary studies on the Harlem Renaissance, the New England Renaissance, and the Renaissance in Italy and England. As Sedgwick sees it, an antihomophobic inquiry into each of these renaissances promises to reconfigure completely the ways in which we conceive of the period in question. Although we ʺcanʹt possibly know in advance … where and how the power in [these renaissances] of gay desires, people, discourses, prohibitions, and energies were manifest,ʺ...

  6. Chapter One Boys’ Own Stories and New Spellings of My Name: Coming Out and Other Myths of Queer Positionality
    (pp. 32-68)

    InThe Beautiful Room Is Empty, Edmund Whiteʹs nameless narrator envisions a day when gay people will claim the right to define themselves: ʺThen I caught myself foolishly imagining that gays might someday constitute a community rather than a diagnosisʺ (226). This exhilarating thought comes to Whiteʹs protagonist as he finds himself in the middle of an uprising at the Stonewall Inn Bar in Greenwich Village on the night of June 27, 1969. Drawing on Civil Rights rhetoric, the protagonist and his friends reclaim and reposition their own experiences with chants such as ʺGay is goodʺ and ʺWeʹre the Pink...

  7. Chapter Two Queer Locations/Queer Transformations
    (pp. 69-115)

    ʺVito Russo pointed out in cinema … that historically, the gay character always had to end up with his head in the oven or in some similar state,ʺ Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explained in a 1991 interview ʺIt was like a Hays rule that you had to come to a bad end.Giovanniʹs Roomisnʹt really an exception to this; and in Randall Kenanʹs book you get a brilliant tormented homosexual, Horace, who commits suicideʺ (in Rowell, 454).¹ Gates praised Kenanʹs novelA Visitation of Spiritsbut was nonetheless wary of the suicidal ending: ʺThereʹs another way of reading this...

  8. Chapter Three Unlimited Access? Queer Theory in the Borderlands
    (pp. 116-154)

    I want to begin in a queer place. My central text in this chapter is Gloria Anzaldúaʹs eclectic mix of theory, poetry, and nonfiction prose in her 1987 collectionBorderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and my central subjects are those Anzaldúa callslos atravesados:ʺthe squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed, the half dead: in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the ʹnormalʹ ʺ (3).Los atravesadosare those who live in the ʺborderlandsʺ of Anzaldúaʹs title; caught between two colliding cultures, this queer group of...

  9. Chapter Four Queer Identities in a Crisis
    (pp. 155-204)

    And then cameAngels in America. There is something predictable, perhaps, about ending with the play that has received more attention than any gay or lesbian work of the past fifteen years, and indeed, more attention than any American play of the past half century. Tony KushnerʹsAngels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themesis a two-part, seven-hour spectacle that has been showered with praise by gay and nongay critics alike. In 1993 the first part—Millennium Approaches—won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and received four Tony Awards, including the awards for best play, best director, and...

  10. Epilogue Post-Queer?
    (pp. 205-214)

    By concluding with Sarah Schulman, ACT UP, and queers in the street, I have come full circle, since my first chapter concluded with Audre Lorde and the resistant identities she observed being shaped and reshaped in the streets a decade earlier: ʺMy lasting image of that spring … was of women whom I knew … and women whose names were unknown to me, leading a march through the streets of Boston behind a broad banner stitched with a line from Barbara Deming: ʹwe cannot live without our livesʹ ʺ (Lorde,Need, 3). The connection is perhaps more than coincidental, since...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 215-236)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 237-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-258)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)