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Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History

by Scott Herring University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
08/2007
ISBN:
9780226327914
Format:
Pbk 272 pages
Price:
AU$73.00 NZ$75.65
Product Status: Available in Approx 5 days
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At the start of the twentieth century, tales of #how the other half lives# experienced a surge in popularity. People looking to go slumming without leaving home turned to these narratives for spectacular revelations of the underworld and sordid details about the deviants who populated it. In this major rethinking of American literature and culture, Scott Herring explores how a key group of authors manipulated this genre to paradoxically evade the confines of sexual identification. Queering the Underworld examines a range of writers, from Jane Addams and Willa Cather to Carl Van Vechten and Djuna Barnes, revealing how they fulfilled the conventions of slumming literature but undermined its goals, and in the process, queered the genre itself. Their work frustrated the reader#`s desire for sexual knowledge, restored the inscrutability of sexual identity, and cast doubt on the value of a homosexual subculture made visible and therefore subject to official control.Herring is persuasive and polemical in connecting these writers to ongoing debates about lesbian and gay history and politics, and Queering the Underworld will be widely read by students and scholars of literature, history, and sexuality.
''Herring presents a sustained and well-written argument, working closely and effectively with a range of texts. His interesting and informative book attempts an important - and welcome - intervention into our present historical moment, when the potentially emancipatory project of queer politics threatens to collapse into a race to the altar.'' - Susan Edmunds, Syracuse University''
Scott Herring is assistant professor of English at Indiana University.