A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol

Overview

In A Small Boy and Others, Michael Moon makes a contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of sexuality and identity in modern American culture. He explores a wide array of literary, artistic, and theatrical performances, ranging from the memoirs of Henry James and the dances of Vaslav Nijinsky to the Pop paintings of Andy Warhol and such films as Midnight Cowboy, Blue Velvet, and Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures. Moon illuminates the careers of James, Warhol, and others by examining the imaginative ...
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A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol

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Overview

In A Small Boy and Others, Michael Moon makes a contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of sexuality and identity in modern American culture. He explores a wide array of literary, artistic, and theatrical performances, ranging from the memoirs of Henry James and the dances of Vaslav Nijinsky to the Pop paintings of Andy Warhol and such films as Midnight Cowboy, Blue Velvet, and Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures. Moon illuminates the careers of James, Warhol, and others by examining the imaginative investments of their protogay childhoods in their work in ways that enable new, more complex cultural readings. Moon reveals how the works of these artists emerge from an engagement that is obsessive to the point of "queerness." Rich in historical detail and insistent in its melding of the recent with the remote, the literary with the visual, the popular with the elite, A Small Boy and Others presents a hitherto unimagined tradition of queer invention.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice
[Moon's] aim is ambitious: to highlight points of continuity between formative influences of American queer culture during two critical decades-one following the conviction of Oscar Wilde (1895) and the other leading up to the period of the Stonewall riots (1969). Shuttling between these two periods, Moon examines how a variety of artists with queer sensibilities precociously identified themselves as outsiders highly sensitive to cultural disconnection and personal loss....oon juxtaposes figures not usually yoked in critical inquiry: Henry James and David Lynch, Vaslav Nijinksy and Jack Smith, Andy Warhol and John Schlesinger, Joseph Cornell and Gerard deNerval. In each instance, his intent is explicitly revisionist: he proposes a radical reassessment of the significance of the artists' works. Scholars and students aware of these artists should find Moon's argument provocative.
American Literature
[In this] mesmerizing book...Moon can unleash power of his own in some of the most subtle and loamy literary and cultural criticism available anywhere....The criticism he offers is unfailingly generous, both to the works and to us: he hopes his collection of queernesses may 'contribute to the production of an expanded critical field.' Let's hope so.
BookForum
Moon is an elegant reader, at his best when revealing layers of disruption and elusive motivation embedded within seemingly reticent texts.
Independent Weekly
In his new book A Small Boy and Others, Michael Moon fashions some critical tools to map the territory of queer childhood more accurately....[A]rtfulness and respect...characterizes the readings in Moon's book. His approach is the perfect way to begin imagining queer kids as the complicated, confusing, fascinating and deeply important figures they are.
Library Journal
Moon (Disseminating Whitman, Harvard Univ., 1991), coeditor of Barbie's Queer Accessories (LJ 4/15/95), examines how the adult male artist productively revisits a remembered scene of himself as a "protoqueer" child being ravished by images of his own desire and later exploits aspects of the remembered (or fantasized) initiatory scene in his work. In the process, Moon argues, following Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, that sexual desire is not so much oriented by objects as it is disoriented by imitation. This highly original approach is made even more audacious by the array of texts examined: one chapter finds continuities between James's "The Pupil" (itself read intertextually with E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale "The Sandman" and Freud's essay on "The Uncanny") with the films Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger) and Blue Velvet (David Lynch). Other chapters (some previously published) explore James's account in old age of his teenage initiation into style (and homoerotic imagery) in French romantic paintings; Joseph Cornell's boxes; Fokine's ballet "Scheherazade," and Jack Smith's underground film Flaming Creatures; and the dynamics of male prostitution as portrayed in Andy Warhol's My Hustler and John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy. Individual chapters are brilliant, if sometimes highly speculative; Moon is less successful in connecting these chapters into a coherently developed argument. Still, this is highly recommended for collections supporting graduate work in queer theory and cultural studies.Robert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence
Judith Butler
Moon's...beautifully written book move[s] the project of queer literary practice into a new order of complexity and subtlety.
From the Publisher
“[In this] mesmerizing book . . . Moon can unleash power of his own in some of the most subtle and loamy literary and cultural criticism available anywhere. . . . The criticism he offers is unfailingly generous, both to the works and to us: he hopes his collection of queernesses may ‘contribute to the production of an expanded critical field.’ Let’s hope so.” - American Literature

“Moon is an elegant reader, at his best when revealing layers of disruption and elusive motivation embedded within seemingly reticent texts.” - BookForum

“[A] highly original approach. . . . Individual chapters are brilliant. . . . [T]his is highly recommended for collections supporting graduate work in queer theory and cultural studies.” - Library Journal

“[Moon’s] aim is ambitious: to highlight points of continuity between formative influences of American queer culture during two critical decades—one following the conviction of Oscar Wilde (1895) and the other leading up to the period of the Stonewall riots (1969). Shuttling between these two periods, Moon examines how a variety of artists with queer sensibilities precociously identified themselves as outsiders highly sensitive to cultural disconnection and personal loss. . . . Moon juxtaposes figures not usually yoked in critical inquiry: Henry James and David Lynch, Vaslav Nijinksy and Jack Smith, Andy Warhol and John Schlesinger, Joseph Cornell and Gerard deNerval. In each instance, his intent is explicitly revisionist: he proposes a radical reassessment of the significance of the artists’ works. Scholars and students aware of these artists should find Moon’s argument provocative.” - Choice

“Refreshing and original. . . .” - Eric Savoy, The Henry James Review

“Moon’s analyses are shrewd and compassionate about their subjects, and give powerful evidence to the value of queer theory for criticism in general—the value of an open generosity of attention that is becoming increasingly rare within straightened and specialised academia.” - Ian F. A. Bell, American Studies

“Michael Moon’s beautifully written book offers splendid and nuanced readings of American literature and culture that move the project of queer literary practice into a new order of complexity and subtlety. His radical contributions show that queer imitation involves a disorientation of mimesis, affirming both the sympathetic and divisive dimensions of identification. Moving, incisive, and bold, Moon’s writing approaches moments of rapture and loss and fails to tame them.”—Judith Butler

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822321736
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Series: Series Q
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Moon is Professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Coroporeality in “Leaves of Grass,” and coeditor of Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race, and Gender fromOroonoko” to Anita Hill (Duke University Press).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 A Small Boy and Others: Sexual Disorientation in Henry James, Kenneth Anger, and David Lynch 15
2 Initiation into Style: In the Memory Palace of Henry James 31
3 Flaming Closets 67
4 Screen Memories, or, Pop Comes from the Outside: Warhol and Queer Childhood 95
5 Outlaw Sex and the "Search for America": Representing Male Prostitution and Perverse Desire in Sixties Film (My Hustler and Midnight Cowboy) 117
6 Oralia: Joseph Cornell, Hunger, Sweetness, and Women's Performances 133
7 Tragedy and Trash: Yiddish Theater and Queer Theater, Henry James, Charles Ludlam, Ethyl Eichelberger 155
Notes 173
Index 193
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