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Libidinal Currents

Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism

From Kate Chopin and Virginia Woolf to William Faulkner and Doris Lessing, modern fiction surges with libidinal currents. The most powerful of these fictions are not merely about sex; rather, they attempt to incorporate the workings of eros into their narrative forms. In doing so, Joseph Allen Boone argues, these modern fictions of sexuality create a politics and poetics of the perverse with the power to transform how we think about and read modernism.

Challenging overarching theories of the novel by carefully mapping the historical contexts that have influenced modern experimental narratives, Boone constructs a model for interpreting sexuality that reaches from Freud’s theory of the libidinal instincts to Foucault’s theory of sexual discourse. The most ambitious study yet written on the links between literary modernity and the psychology of sex, Boone’s Libidinal Currents will be a landmark book in the study of modernist fiction, gay studies/queer theory, feminist criticism, and studies in sexuality and gender.

528 pages | 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Table of Contents

Introduction: Modernity’s Fictions of Sexuality: Definitions/Parameters/Desires
1: Policing and Depolicing the Theory of the Novel: Repression, Transgression, and the Erotics of "Heretic Narrative" in "Victorian" Fiction: Charlotte Bronte, Villette
2: Channeling the Floods of Desire: Women, Water, and the Plot of Sexual Awakening in Turn-of-the-Century Narrative. Kate Chopin, The Awakening: Swimming into the Unknown, D.H. Lawrence, The Virgin and the Gipsy: "Listen for the Voice of the Water": Sigmund Freud, Dora: (Freud’s) Wet Dreams
3: Modernist Theaters of the Mind I: Staging Sexuality in the Flux of Consciousness. James Joyce, Ulysses: (Re)Staging Sexuality in "Circe", Performing (as) "Penelope". Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway: Representing "the Unseen Part of Us, Which Spreads Wide"
4: Theaters of the Mind II: Queer Sites in Modernism: Harlem/The Left Bank/Greenwich Village in the 1920s and 1930s. Bruce Nugent, "Smoke, Lilies, and Jade": Harlem as a Homo State of Mind. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood: Worlds of Night in the City of Light. Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil: A Walk on the Wild Side. Blair Niles, Strange Brother: Strange Passages
5: Under the Shadow of Fascism: Oedipus, Sexual Anxiety, and the Deauthorizing Designs of Paternal Narrative. William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: Creation by the Father’s Fiat. Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children: At the Crossroads of Myth and Psychoanalysis.
6: Fragmented Selves, Mythic Descents, and Third World Geographies: Fifties’ Writing Gone Mad. Lawrence Durrell, Alexandria Quartet: Homoerotic Negotiations in Colonial Narrative. Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook: Sex-Race Wars on the Frontier

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