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ENGL 67-final paper

ENGL 67-final paper - 1 Mallory Carlson Professor Garber...

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Mallory Carlson Professor Garber ENGL 67 – Final 4 December 2006 American Queer Literature Today, I would like to discuss the relevant issues that are pertinent to the study of American Gay and Lesbian Literature. First of all, what constitutes gay and lesbian literature? Is it the subject of the literature? The author? Or perhaps, can it only be identified through the interpretation of the individual? I plan to lead a brief discussion of what I consider to be interesting and relevant about this genre of American literature, ending with my own condensed definition of American queer literature. So first of all, we need to consider how a piece of literature is considered gay. What are the fundamental counterparts that create themes related to gay life within the context of American literature? Often, literature is considered gay due to the evidence of homosexual love, desire or attraction. This evidence may be explicit or implicit in nature, but usually surfaces in one form or another. For instance, in Tennessee Williams’ 1950s drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , the protagonist, Brick, is confronted with the nature of his unusually close friendship with his deceased friend, Skipper. Brick’s father, Big Daddy, demands to know why Brick feels the need to withdraw his painful feelings about Skipper’s death, to which Brick explodes “you think that Skipper and me were a pair of dirty old men?...A couple of – ducking sissies? Queers? ...Is that what you think?” (Williams 92). Brick is so unwilling to openly confess or even confront his feelings towards Skipper that his buried feelings can only come out through a dramatic act of denial. Within the context of the play, Brick never says explicitly that he has homosexual 1
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tendencies, but his radical denial implies that the issue of homosexuality is important to the play’s overall message. On the contrary, Molly Bolt, the protagonist of the novel Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, explicitly confirms her lesbian identity with absolutely no attached sense of shame or helplessness. The audience sees the breadth and complexity of Molly’s lesbian love, desire and sexuality; this enforces the explicit nature of Molly’s homosexual identity. When being confronted by an authoritative figure at her university about an incident concerning her roommate, Molly honestly proclaims “I’m in love with my roommate. She makes me happy […] we fuck, if that’s what you’re after” then later replies to the “abnormal” nature of this relationship that “I know it’s not normal for people to be happy, and I’m happy” (Brown 127). The unabashed assertion of Molly’s sexuality is reflective of queer literature that makes its homosexuality an explicit theme, whereas Williams’ drama reflects the realm of queer literature that raises the issue of homosexuality without explicitly focusing upon it.
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