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Special Features Index  

 
Spotlight Gay and Bisexual Male American Literature: 1900-1969
 
  There was frank and affirmative Gay Male American Writing from the century's start, but it was usually published abroad or by marginal presses or remained private and unpublished. As the century advanced, there were marked increases in both the amount of frank gay male American writing and the amount of it issued by mainstream publishers.  
 
 
  The African-American Gay Male Literary Tradition consists of a substantial body of texts and includes some of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century.  
 
 
  Edward Albee The American dramatist Edward Albee (b. 1928), whose career flourished in the 1960s and then waned as a result of homophobia (only to rebound later), wrote plays with gay subtexts in which loving is the ultimate act of violence and violence is the most effective expression of love.  
 
 
  Most gay, lesbian, and bisexual American Leftist Writers who adhered to Marxist-oriented parties and social movements between 1917 and the 1960s strove to hide their sexual orientation, and some even depicted homosexuals negatively in their fiction and drama.  
 
 
  One of the most gifted critics of American literature of the mid-twentieth century, Newton Arvin (1900-1963) is today most remembered as a lover and mentor of Truman Capote and as the central figure in a 1960 scandal at Smith College.  
 
 
  John Ashbery John Ashbery (b. 1929), one of the leading contemporary American poets, avoids explicit gay content in his poetry, but his work shares concerns with other late twentieth-century gay writing.  
 
 
  W. H. Auden One of the most accomplished poets of the twentieth century, W. H. Auden (1907-1973) found that his gayness led him to new insights into the universal impulse to love and enlarged his understanding of all kinds of relationships.  
 
 
  Gay Male Autobiography In its first century of existence, Gay Male Autobiography has become increasingly open, frank, and unapologetic.  
 
 
  James Barr (1922-1995) is the pseudonym under which James Fugaté published the popular novel Quatrefoil (1950) and other works, and which he used as an activist in the homophile movement of the 1950s.  
 
 
  Through his writing, teaching, and public appearances, James Beard (1903-1985) became widely recognized as one of the foremost representatives of American gastronomy; he planned to reveal his homosexuality in a memoir, but died before completing the book.  
 
 
  The writers of the Beat Generation, many of whom were gay or bisexual, endorsed gay rights as a part of their rebellion against inhibition and self-censorship.  
 
 
  An eminent professor and translator as well as a drama critic and playwright, Eric Bentley (b. 1916)--whether writing from inside or outside the closet--has consistently supported the representation of same-sex desire in the theater.  
 
 
  Gay American expatriate composer, writer, and translator Paul Bowles (1910-1999) liked to examine sexuality from a dispassionate perspective for its psychological suggestiveness.  
 
 
  Myron Brinig One of the first Jewish-American Writers of his generation to write in English rather than Yiddish, Myron Brinig (1896-1991) was also one of the first to create homosexual characters, though he remained publicly closeted all of his life.  
 
 
  American novelist John Horne Burns (1916-1953) used his outsider status as a homosexual to critique America's class-coded heterosexist morality and its ethnocentrism and marketplace mentality.  
 
 
  William Burroughs Both in his life and his novels, American writer William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) 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.  
 
 
  Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, Camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.  
 
 
  Truman Capote Truman Capote (1924-1984) wrote fictional and autobiographical works that helped establish what might be called the quintessential homosexual writing style of the 1950s and 1960s.  
 
 
  John Cheever John Cheever (1912-1982), who was bisexual, gradually came to invest homosexuality with redemptive and transforming powers.  
 
 
  A successor to Walt Whitman, Hart Crane (1899-1933) found spiritual transcendence in homoerotic desire.  
 
 
  Countee Cullen Countee Cullen (1903-1946), an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, has coded references to homosexuality in much of his poetry.  
 
 
  Samuel Delany Writer of Science Fiction, memoirs, erotica, cultural studies, and Postmodern criticism, and winner of multiple Nebula, Hugo, and Lambda Literary Awards, Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942) is widely regarded as one of the finest science fiction writers of his generation.  
 
 
  Robert Duncan (1919-1988) wrote a remarkable series of poems that deal directly with the love of men for other men.  
 
 
  T. S. Eliot Although T[homas] S[tearns] Eliot (1888-1965) tried to suppress the fact, The Waste Land is an elegy for a young Frenchman whom he met and loved in Paris and who died in the Great War in 1915.  
 
 
  The poetry of Edward Field (b. 1924) is an account of coming to terms with homosexuality in the literary world of New York in the second half of the twentieth century.  
 
 
  Members of New York's early twentieth-century avant-garde, Charles Henri Ford (1910?-2002) and Parker Tyler (1904-1974) are also the authors of a widely suppressed and largely unread experimental novel of 1930s gay life, The Young and Evil.  
 
 
  Robert Friend (1913-1998) was both an accomplished poet in his own right and also an exceptionally skillful translator of poetry from many different languages.  
 
 
  Allen Ginsberg The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.  
 
 
  The candor with which the bisexual Paul Goodman (1911-1972) wrote about the homosexual libido in his poetry and fiction made him an important and highly visible advocate of gay liberation.  
 
 
  Thom Gunn Anglo-American writer Thom Gunn (1929-2004) was a major gay poet and a perceptive critic of gay poetry.  
 
 
  There has been renewed interest in the life and work of American adventurer and travel writer Richard Halliburton (1900-1939) at least in part because of his homosexuality.  
 
 
  Jseph Hansen Best known as the author of the Dave Brandstetter mystery series, Joseph Hansen (1923-2004) also published a considerable body of nonmystery fiction and poetry, most of it dominated by homosexual characters and themes.  
 
 
  The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.  
 
 
  Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), himself sexually insecure, included negative, even abusive portrayals of gay men in his fiction.  
 
 
  The searching and witty poetry of Richard Howard (b. 1929), in which homosexuality is not a problem but a solution, is a significant contribution to the gay and lesbian literary heritage.  
 
 
  Langston Hughes Langston Hughes (1902-1967), 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.  
 
 
  William Inge Although he was closeted and created few homosexual characters, playwright and novelist William Inge (1913-1973) frequently acknowledged the existence of gay culture and desire in both his dramatic dialogue and prose.  
 
 
  Christopher Isherwood A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.  
 
 
  Editor and author Dale Jennings (1917-2000) was a pioneer of the American gay rights movement, one of the co-founders of both the Mattachine Society and ONE, Inc.  
 
 
  Maurice Kenny (b. 1929) combines a gay and Native American consciousness to create poetry that is located in multiple cultures.  
 
 
  Jack Kerouac Bisexual writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) omitted references to his homosexuality from his otherwise autobiographical works.  
 
 
  Co-author of the book of the celebrated musical A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood (1924-1989) also wrote five popular novels and two nonfiction books.  
 
 
  Gavin Lambert Best known as a screenwriter, Gavin Lambert (1924-2005) was also a novelist and biographer who captured the essence of life in the film community in a perceptive and witty fashion.  
 
 
  Alain Locke As midwife to the Harlem Renaissance, Alain Locke (1885-1954) played a crucial role in the development of African-American Literature. His homosexuality informed his plea for respect of sexual and cultural diversity.  
 
 
  Critic F. O. Matthiessen (1902-1950) was instrumental in the inclusion of gay writers in American literary history, and the exchange of letters between him and his lover Russell Cheney are among the most revealing gay male documents of the 1920s.  
 
 
  American publisher and writer Robert McAlmon (1896-1956) made significant contributions to twentieth-century literature, both by publishing avant-garde writers and by depicting a queer subculture in his own works.  
 
 
  Claude McKay Jamaican-born bisexual African-American poet, novelist, and essayist Claude McKay (1889-1948) made compelling contributions to the development of the Harlem Renaissance; in his works, he put forward a revolutionary agenda of racial, class, and sexual liberation.  
 
 
  The poems and songs of the amazingly prolific Rod McKuen (b. 1933) express a bittersweet, aching tenderness that has endeared him to millions of fans.  
 
 
  James Merrill The significance as a gay writer of James Merrill (1926-1995) lies in his deliberate use of a personal relationship to fuel his poetry.  
 
 
  One of the first mainstream American writers to discuss his homosexuality publicly, Merle Miller (1919-1986) is best known for his groundbreaking book On Being Different and for his best-selling presidential biographies.  
 
 
  Modern Drama Modern Drama was heavily censored in the the United States, which caused authors to encode homosexual content in publicly-presented plays rather than present it overtly.  
 
 
  Despite the widespread homophobia in the Modernist Movement, several of its practitioners were homosexual; some of them wrote openly about homosexuality, and the groundwork was laid for the gay liberation movement.  
 
 
  Harold Norse Beat writer, poet, and memoirist Harold Norse (1916-2009) created a body of work that uses everyday language and images to explore and celebrate both the commonplace and the exotic.  
 
 
  Since World War II, the Gay Male Novel has progressively flourished in England and especially in America.  
 
 
  The influential poet Frank O'Hara (1926-1966) wrote works informed by both modern art and the world of urban gay male culture.  
 
 
  Robert Patrick Robert Patrick (b. 1937) is a founding father of gay drama in America and an influence in the development of gay drama in England.  
 
 
  From ancient times until the present, Gay Male Poetry has been more important than prose in the "gay tradition" in literature.  
 
 
  James Purdy The novels of James Purdy (1914-2009) often describe obsessive love between men for whom homosexuality is unthinkable and whose fate is inevitably bleak.  
 
 
  John Rechy In his novels about hustling, preeminently City of Night and Numbers, John Rechy (b. 1934) moves from the world of homosexual behavior into the world of gay identity.  
 
 
  Poet, translator, literary and art critic, and short story writer, Edouard Roditi (1910-1992) was associated with most of the twentieth-century's avant-garde literary movements from Surrealism to Post-modernism.  
 
 
  George Santayana Although late in fully understanding his sexual orientation, George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote a series of sonnets celebrating his love for a friend who died young and described his male friendships in rhapsodic terms in his autobiography.  
 
 
  New Orleans writer Lyle Chambers Saxon (1891-1946) is remembered primarily as an editor and friend to writers, as well as an architectural preservationist and beloved public personality.  
 
 
  Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Schuyler (1923-1991), a prominent member of the New York School of poets and painters, wrote openly about his homosexuality.  
 
 
  Maurice Sendak An important voice in Children's Literature over the past half century, Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) wrote and illustrated books that both acknowledge the fears faced by children and celebrate the imagination with which they cope with them.  
 
 
  A brilliantly original gay writer, Jack Spicer (1925-1965) wrote poetry noted for its lyric beauty, intellectual power, and formal invention.  
 
 
  Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson (1868-1942), who wrote both fiction and nonfiction, might well be styled the first modern American gay author.  
 
 
  College professor, tattoo artist, novelist, and memoirist, Samuel Steward (1909-1993) is best remembered for the literate and explicit gay male erotica he published under the pseudonym Phil Andros.  
 
 
  Carl Van Vechten The gay novelist, critic, and photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was especially interested in African-American culture and was an influential patron to many writers of the Harlem Renaissance.  
 
 
  Gore Vidal The multifaceted Gore Vidal (1925-2012) is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.  
 
 
  American writer Glenway Wescott (1901-1987) is the author of a series of critically esteemed novels, but may be best known for his central position in New York's artistic and gay communities of the 1950s and 1960s.  
 
 
  Thornton Wilder The works of Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) are landmarks of American literature, but they reveal scant traces of the author's homosexuality.  
 
 
  Tennessee Williams Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.  
 
 
  Lanford Wilson In his depictions of gay subjects, Lanford Wilson (1937-2011) proved himself to be a powerful voice speaking of the lives of gay men.  
 
 
  Donald Windham In addition to writing fiction with gay and bisexual characters and situations, Donald Windham (1920-2010) made a significant contribution to Gay Studies as a memoirist and editor.  
 
 
  American hard-boiled fiction writer Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) reflected his homosexuality obliquely in his fiction.  
 
 
 

 
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