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literature

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Reading Across Orientations  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

The Emergence of Openly Gay Literature

Finally, a momentous historical and aesthetic shift seems to be taking place. Gay readers have given rise to gay writers, and the historical necessity of distorting so-called straight literature and heterosexual sensibilities may be becoming outmoded as literature falls increasingly prey to niche marketing.

Will the new explicitness cost us irony, subtlety, and empathy as we strive to "read"--that is, to make sense of--the world and the text, others and ourselves? Less cross-reading may need to be done, but what the act of cross-reading loses to necessity it will gain back from openness and explicitness.

Sponsor Message.

More, not fewer, cross-reading analyses seem to be appearing in gay and lesbian studies, an academic discipline that is no longer just outing and uncloseting the gay and lesbian but also militantly appropriating the straight.

The relevance of an exchange between gay readers and straight texts, like that which occurs between homosexual writers and the heterosexual public, can no longer be discounted or dismissed. Cross-reading, at last, is out of the closet.

Jacob Stockinger

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literature >> Overview:  Camp

Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.

literature >> Overview:  Humor

Like other minority groups, gay men and lesbians have had to develop both a particular sense of humor among themselves in order to make their marginal social status endurable and also a defensive awareness toward the rest of the world in order to disarm their adversaries with laughter.

literature >> Overview:  Identity

Although the question of homosexual identity is a complex one, it has polarized activists, theorists, and literary critics into two primary camps, essentialists and constructionists, both of which can contribute usefully to an understanding of the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> Overview:  Slash Fiction

Slash fiction refers to a genre of fan writing that imagines homoerotic bonds developing between the leads of a variety of "cult" mainstream media productions, including television shows and films.

literature >> Baldwin, James Arthur

James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.

literature >> Balzac, Honoré de

One of the masters of French nineteenth-century fiction, Balzac provocatively includes both lesbian and gay male characters in his novels.

literature >> Barthes, Roland

French semiotician Roland Barthes argued that the reintroduction of the sentimentality of love into sexuality would be the ultimate transgression.

literature >> Baudelaire, Charles

Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.

literature >> Beauvoir, Simone de

Best known for her revolutionary study of women's condition, The Second Sex (1949) and as the companion of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir had a number of same-sex relationships during her life.

literature >> Bowles, Jane Auer

American novelist, playwright, and short story writer Jane Bowles spent her life examining lesbian identity with an honest and sardonic wit.

literature >> Burroughs, William S.

Both in his life and his novels, American writer William S. Burroughs was an outlaw and a provocateur, focusing on sexual repression as the fundamental element of social control and writing in a surrealistic and bitterly satirical mode.

literature >> Cather, Willa

One of America's premier literary artists in the earlier twentieth century, Willa Cather reflected her own lesbianism in the creation of strong women characters and in the exploration of male homosexuality.

literature >> Cocteau, Jean

An outspoken homosexual, Jean Cocteau was a prolific poet, novelist, critic, essayist, artist, and filmmaker.

literature >> Colette

One of France's most beloved authors, Colette wrote novels with strong lesbian subtexts.

literature >> Crane, Hart

A successor to Walt Whitman, Hart Crane found spiritual transcendence in homoerotic desire.

literature >> Forster, E. M.

One of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century and a tireless defender of humane values, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> García Lorca, Federico

The works of García Lorca, internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century, are filled with thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes.

literature >> Genet, Jean

Jean Genet's work has left a powerful legacy to post-modernity and remains a provocation to questions of gay identity.

literature >> Gide, André

André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

literature >> Gogol, Nikolai

Nikolai Gogol's repressed homosexuality is reflected obliquely in nearly all of his works, especially in the fear of marriage that permeates his stories and plays.

literature >> Hughes, Langston

Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

literature >> James, Henry

Though closeted, Henry James had a number of intimate relations with young men, and his sexual orientation imbued his fiction.

literature >> Kuzmin, Mikhail Alekseyevich

The Russian writer and translator Mikhail Kuzmin wrote poems and novels that present sympathetic, often idealistic, portrayals of gay love and desire.

literature >> Leduc, Violette

The bisexual novelist and memoirist Violette Leduc is an astute psychological observer and a dramatic chronicler of women's issues.

literature >> Melville, Herman

The most important American novelist of the nineteenth century, Herman Melville reflects his homosexuality throughout his texts.

literature >> Merrill, James

James Merrill's significance as a gay writer lies in his deliberate use of a personal relationship to fuel his poetry.

literature >> Mishima, Yukio

In his quest for masculinity, Yukio Mishima mythologized himself both in his life and his writings, culminating in his ritual suicide.

literature >> Monette, Paul

In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

literature >> Parnok, Sophia

The creativity of Russian poet Sophia Parnok was closely linked to her lesbianism.

literature >> Proust, Marcel

Marcel Proust is the author of A la recherche du temps perdu, one of the major achievements of Modernism and a great gay novel.

literature >> Puig, Manuel

Homosexual themes and motifs are suggested in a number of Manuel Puig's eight novels, and in the best known of them, Kiss of the Spider Woman, homosexual desire is central to the fiction.

literature >> Rimbaud, Arthur

Because his writing stresses liberation, the French "boy-poet" Arthur Rimbaud, whose art is based solely on his individual creativity, is a progenitor of modern gay poetics.

literature >> Sade, Marquis de

Whether or not the Marquis de Sade was himself bisexual, homosexual activity is an important item in his program of revolutionary sexual libertinism.

literature >> Shakespeare, William

As one of the key figures that western civilization has used to define itself, William Shakespeare stands in a complicated, fiercely contested relationship to homosexuality.

literature >> Stein, Gertrude

In addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, Gertrude Stein was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.

literature >> Tsvetaeva, Marina Ivanovna

A lesbian theme runs throughout the works of Marina Tsvetaeva, widely considered one of the four greatest twentieth-century Russian poets.

literature >> Verlaine, Paul

The poetry of Paul Verlaine celebrates both heterosexual and homosexual activity, including lesbian relationships.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.

literature >> Williams, Tennessee

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.

literature >> Wittig, Monique

The controversial lesbian author and theorist Monique Wittig has produced some of the most challenging fictional and theoretical work of second-wave feminism.

literature >> Woolf, Virginia

Passionate friendships with women were essential to the life and work of novelist Virginia Woolf.

literature >> Yourcenar, Marguerite

The prize-winning novelist Marguerite Yourcenar reflected her own homosexuality in her works almost exclusively through male characters, most notably in Memoirs of Hadrian.


    Bibliography
   

Bergman, David. Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Self-Representation in American Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Creech, James. Closet Writing, Gay Reading. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Doty, Alexander. Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

Karlinsky, Simon. The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976.

Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen's Voice: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire. New York: Poseidon Press, 1993.

Martin, Robert K. The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979.

Miller, D. A. Bringing Out Roland Barthes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Scholes, Robert. Protocols of Reading. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Sedgwick, Eve Kasofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

_____. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

_____. Tendencies. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993.

Stockinger, Jacob. "The Gay Mishima." Gay Roots: 20 Years of Gay Sunshine. Winston Leyland, ed. Gay Sunshine Press, 1991. 450-462.

_____. "Homosexuality and the French Enlightenment." Homosexualities and French Literature. Elaine Marks and George Stambolian, eds. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979. 161-185.

_____. "Homotextuality: A Proposal." The Gay Academic. Louie Crew, ed. Palm Springs: Etc. Publications, 1979. 135-151.

_____. "Impurity and Sexual Politics in the Provinces: Colette's Anti-Idyll in 'The Patriarch.'" Women's Studies 8 (1981): 369-366.

_____. "The Test of Love and Nature: Colette and Lesbians." Colette: The Woman, The Writer. Erica Eisinger and Mari McCarty, eds. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1981. 75-94.

Summers, Claude J. Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall: Studies in a Male Homosexual Literary Tradition. New York: Continuum, 1990.

Tompkins, Jane. Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

White, Edmund. Genet: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1993.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Stockinger, Jacob  
    Entry Title: Reading Across Orientations  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 14, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/reading_across.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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