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

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

by Scott Herring
Pub. Date:
University of Chicago Press
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Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History

At the turn 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 wide range of writers-including Jane Addams, Willa Cather, Carl Van Vechten, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent, 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.

About the Author:
Scott Herring is assistant professor of English at Indiana University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226327914
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 12/28/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction: Queer Slumming     1
Underworld Unknowing     1
The Hermeneutics of Sexual Suspicion     4
The Suspicion of Sexual Hermeneutics     13
Rotten Politics     20
Terra Incognita: Jane Addams, Philanthropic Slumming, and the Elusive Identity of Hull-House     25
Disappearing Acts     25
Spinster Panic     31
Queered Cosmopolitanism     39
Twenty Years in Cedarville     49
The Limbo of Forgotten Spectators     61
Willa Cather's Experiment in Luxury     67
Cather's Case History     67
In the Company of Tramps     74
Decadent Movements     79
The Miseries of Pittsburgh     83
Fairy Worlds     87
Slumming on Park Avenue     96
Capitalism and the Erasure of Gay Identity     100
"Slightly Known Territory": Renaissance Admixture and the So-Called Van Vechten School     104
A Caucasian Storms Harlem     104
The Signifying Slummer     111
Parties and Mixers     121
Friendship beyond Understanding     127
Nugent'sShtick     138
"Just a Case of Mixed Signs"     144
Antisapphic Modernism     150
Les mysteres de Djuna Barnes     150
Looking for Bohemia     156
Stephen Gordon's Slumming Tour     165
Lost in transition     173
Watchman, What of the Night?     177
Hidden from History     182
The Obscure Life     188
Epilogue: Secrets of the African-American Bisexual Man; or, Double Lives on the Down Low     193
Straight Outta Compton     193
Never Apologize, Never Explain     199
Undetectability     203
Beyond Subcultural Studies: A Manifesto     207
Notes     211
Works Cited     237
Index     265

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