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Closet Writing/Gay Reading

The Case of Melville’s Pierre

One of the most urgent tasks for gay studies today, James Creech argues, is the retrieval of a repressed, "closeted" literary heritage. But contradictions and problems cloud even the most basic theoretical questions: What does a lesbian or gay reading of a literary text require or presume? Can we talk about a homosexual writer expressing him- or herself before the invention of "homosexuality"? Was it possible for a writer like Herman Melville, for example, to create literary works linked to his own prohibited eros?

In Closet Writing/Gay Reading, Creech shows how a literary critic can be receptive to implicit and closeted sexual content. Forcefully advocating a tactic of identification and projection in literary analysis, he lends renewed currency to the kind of "sentimental" response to literature that continental theory—particularly deconstruction—has sought to discredit.

In the second half of his book, Creech sets out to analyze what he considers the exemplary novel of the nineteenth-century closet, Melville’s Pierre, or: The Ambiguities. By approaching Pierre as the gay man Melville longed to have as its reader, Creech is able to decipher the novel’s "encrypted erotics" and to reveal that Melville’s apparent tale of incest is actually a homosexual novel in disguise. The closeted "address" to queer-sensitive readers that Pierre disseminates finally receives a critical reading that strives to be explicit, shareable, and public.

216 pages | 3 halftones | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1994

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Pt. One: Lesbian and Gay Literary Theory Today
1. From Deconstruction
2. From Kitsch Attribution to Camp Recognition
3. Nineteenth-Century Homosexual Expression
Pt. Two: Pierre; or, The Ambiguities
A Camp Reading
4. Textual Cruising
5. Alibis
Afterword
Bibliography
Index

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