Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Gary Lemons

Co-Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins

Committee Member

Ylce Irizarry

Keywords

Angels in America, Blackbird, Tricks, Larry Duplechan, Renaud Camus

Abstract

My thesis seeks to examine the relationship that exists between queer selfidentification and heterosexual hegemonic/heteronormative power in three works of and about the AIDS era. Working from feminist and queer theory perspectives, I first chart the way in which a problematic identity—be that identity a non-identity of utter invisibility, a sick identity, a dangerous identity, or (most commonly) an identity of utter hedonism disconnected from any notions of attachment, affection, or love beyond the physical sexual act—has been and is still wholly adopted by some. I do this principally with a close reading of Renaud Camus' 1981 novel Tricks, as well as with substantial historical grounding. I assert that this is not just a problem in queer literature, but in queer life which queer literature deeply reflects. Through a close reading of Tony Kushner's play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, I seek to illustrate the consequences of accepting entirely and without question a constructed and problematic identity for gay men. Historical examination also comes strongly into play through correspondence and personal narratives of men who lived through (and died in) the AIDS era, casualties of war of queer self-definition. Employing a close literary analysis of Larry Duplechan's 1986 novel Blackbird, my thesis seeks to chart a way to a stable, holistic, queer identity negotiated from a position of strength. In a larger sense my thesis explicates constraints upon queer identity intended to limit queer people to a heteronomous, damaged, vulnerable social position. I raise awareness of these constraints in attempt to navigate a way around them with the ultimate destination of this navigation being a perpetually increasing humanization of a historically and institutionally dehumanized population.

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