Some Of The Parts: Fragmentary Literature And Queer Politics
SOME OF THE PARTS: FRAGMENTARY LITERATURE AND QUEER POLITICS Jacob Benjamin Brogan Cornell University January 2015 Investigating the interplay of textual form and conceptual problems, "Some of the Parts" studies the strategic use of fragmentary literary styles by queer novelists over much of the past century, focusing especially on the connection between formal deviance and sexual difference. These works are "fragmentary" in that they deliberately foreground their own incompleteness, calling constant attention to their refusal to tell full and final stories. To the extent that they dramatize the fundamental lack of a text, fragments become a powerful means of imagining the mechanisms of desire and the denial thereof. In the process, fragmentation offers a paradoxical resource to queer authors, one that allows them to explore political, social, and even biomedical problems that would otherwise be overwhelming in scope. On the one hand, the shattered worlds that these authors summon up mirror the fraught contours of queer life and experience. Simultaneously, fragmentation serves as a tool that enables richer encounters with the very ills it diagnoses. The first chapter provides a broad overview of the ways fragmentation has been understood and put to work in the past. The second chapter, which attends to the memoiristic writings of Gertrude Stein, tackles a long running critical tradition that castigates Stein for her failure to identify herself as a lesbian, an absence that is ultimately but one point of fragmentation among many in her work. The third chapter looks at the ways William S. Burroughs repurposed bits and pieces of his early pulp accounts of gay life in his later work. This method allows him to undermine the otherwise intractable stability of the categories he had reluctantly embraced earlier in his career. The fourth chapter explores the long-term usefulness of this approach by turning to the queer, African- American science fiction novelist Samuel R. Delany, who, in The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals, his 1984 novel of the AIDS crisis, embraces a multigeneric style in order to confront an otherwise incomprehensible challenge to queer existence. The final chapter of this project turns to the early 21st century novels of David Markson, in which fragmentation provides a means of negotiating the persistent pressures of the closet. Ultimately, the conclusions shows how fragmentary logics offer new means of thinking about problems of causality, arguing that such an approach is necessary as queer studies moves forward.
Queer Studies; Contemporary American Literature; Fragmentation
Culler, Jonathan Dwight; Villarejo, Amy; Attell, Kevin D.
English Language & Literature
Ph.D. of English Language & Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis