Preludes to a Genre

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Circulating Queerness: Before the Gay and Lesbian Novel
by Natasha Hurley
University of Minnesota Press. 320 page, $27.

 

WHERE DID today’s gay novel come from? Did it spring Athena-like fully armed from the mind of its authors? In her fascinating, adroit, but at times maddeningly opaque second book of queer studies, Natasha Hurley aims to answer these questions. In five dense, far-ranging chapters, she traces the emergence of the gay novel. Hurley argues that what we now identify as the overt gay or lesbian novel grew out of earlier literary productions, ones that contributed to the “making of selves and sentences, sympathies and worlds that [had]not yet existed.”

         Protagonists whom we would now identify as queer, lesbian, gay, or bisexual often first showed up in literature as spinsters, eccentrics, and chums—characters defined “not by their inner sympathies at all but by their locations.”

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