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Narrative exploits: space and trauma in contemporary American literature

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This dissertation analyzes contemporary American literature, which includes novels, graphic novels, film, and television of the last forty years, to deconstruct the critical relationship between lived space, institutional power, and

This dissertation analyzes contemporary American literature, which includes novels, graphic novels, film, and television of the last forty years, to deconstruct the critical relationship between lived space, institutional power, and trauma. It examines literary representations of traumatic moments in recent American history--the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, the emergence of the Homeland Security state, and the introduction of the "new metropolis"--to demonstrate that collective trauma at the turn of the century is very much a product of the individual's complex relationship to the state and its institutional auxiliaries. As many philosophers and social critics have argued, institutional forces in contemporary America often deprive individuals of active political engagement through processes of narrative production, and this study discusses how literature both represents and simulates the traumatic consequences of this encounter. Looking to theories on urban, domestic, and textual space, this dissertation explores and problematizes the political and psychological dimensions of space, demonstrating how trauma is enacted through space and how individuals may utilize space and exploit narrative to achieve critical distance from institutional power. Literature as a narrative medium presents vital opportunities both for exposing the machinery of institutional power and for generating positions against the narratives produced by the state.

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  • 2013

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Queering home: domestic space and sexuality in postmodern American literature

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Jason Bryant Queering Home: Domestic Space and Sexuality in Postmodern American Fiction This dissertation explores narratives of homosexuals and trans men and women occupying domestic spaces, discerning the ways that

Jason Bryant Queering Home: Domestic Space and Sexuality in Postmodern American Fiction This dissertation explores narratives of homosexuals and trans men and women occupying domestic spaces, discerning the ways that “home” shapes understandings about sexuality and examining the ways that understandings of sexuality shape how domestic spaces are occupied. Queer artists and intellectuals have deconstructed the legacy of normativity that clings to the metaphor of the domestic realm. Queering Home argues that writers have used the discursive concept of home to cultivate sociopolitical communities (Audre Lorde, Zami) while also insisting upon material spaces of shelter and comfort for individuals queered by gender performance, sexual orientation, and resultant adverse economic conditions (Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues). Two novels, Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina and Mike Albo's Hornito, challenge the coming-of-age tradition of narrating childhood/adolescence through the redeeming prism of the confident, queer adult; in particular, these novels trouble the problematic notion of domesticated maturation as a heteronormative condition that continues to cling to much contemporary American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics. The third chapter examines Marilyn Hacker's sonnet collection, Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons in correspondence with Carl Phillips's collection, Cortège, as they queer the concept of domestic bliss, the goal toward which romantic partners are “supposed” to be committed. Hacker and Phillips revise the same-sex couple as a processing of gay ways of life, which resists positing normative, married futures for lesbians and homosexuals. Finally, the study investigates Terrence McNally's play, Lips Together, Teeth Apart and a series of still life paintings by Joey Terrill for their depiction of narratives of domestic spaces (pools, open-concept design, medicine cabinets), which condition the subjectification and desubjectification of gay male sexuality and domesticity in the era of HIV/AIDS. Throughout, this dissertation draws energy by challenging the “given” and “inevitable” heteronorms that condition domesticity, sexuality, and space, demonstrating how late twentieth century writers and artists have queered the home.

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  • 2013