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Cruising the Gay Canon: Examining Cornerstones of Gay American Fiction from 1945 to 1969

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In the mid-twentieth century, a number of vital and quietly revolutionary gay male writers, including Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and John Rechy, increasingly wrote about explicitly homosexual experiences and culture despite social and legal opposition. Both individually and

In the mid-twentieth century, a number of vital and quietly revolutionary gay male writers, including Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and John Rechy, increasingly wrote about explicitly homosexual experiences and culture despite social and legal opposition. Both individually and collectively, these four authors ultimately merged disjointed identities to establish a tradition of visibility and resistance in the United States. Divided into four main sections, this thesis examines each author’s portrayal of homosexual experiences and culture through his distinct approach with a close literary analysis of various works. The first section considers Christopher Isherwood and how milieu affects his depictions of homosexuality in The Berlin Stories (1945), Down There on a Visit (1962), and A Single Man (1964). The second examines Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (1948) and the relationship between homosexuality and masculinity. The third section looks at how James Baldwin writes about the intersection of homosexuality, race, nationality, and class in both Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Another Country (1962). Finally, the fourth section considers the emergence of queer communities built around resistance in John Rechy’s City of Night (1963). In addition to these literary texts, original reviews of each novel published in The New York Times capture their reception and acceptance into a mainstream American readership. Through their distinct approaches, these four authors collectively present a varied, although somewhat limited, look at the homosexual experience in postwar, pre-Stonewall America.

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2019-05