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January 25 , 2008

The Queer Uncanny

New Perspectives on the Gothic


The Queer Uncanny: New Perspectives on the Gothic investigates the diverse roles that the uncanny, as defined by Sigmund Freud, Helene Cixous and other theorists, plays in representing lesbian and male gay sexualities and transgender in a selection of contemporary British, American and Caribbean fiction published 1980-2007. Novels by Christopher Bram, Alan Hollinghurst, Randall Kenan, Shani Mootoo, James Purdy, Sarah Schulman, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson and other writers are discussed in the context of queer theory and gothic critical writing. The notion of the uncanny as ‘tangential and to one side’ and ‘appearing on the fringe of something else’, as defined by Cixous and Rosemary Jackson, appropriately evokes the situation of the queer individual living in a minority sub-culture and existing in oblique relation to hetero- normative society. Motifs with uncanny connotations discussed include secrets that society would prefer to remain hidden but come to light, spectral visitation, the emergence of repressed fears and desires, the double, and the homely/ unhomely house. Writers employ them to explore topics integral to queer existence. These include secrets relating to the closet and AIDS; homosexual panic; lesbian social invisibility; transgender subjectivity; the intersection between sexuality and race; the vilification of the queer subject as ‘monstrous Other’; the domestic life of the gay couple destabilised by homophobic influences from the public world; and the heterosexual family disrupted by homosexual secrets from within. The queer recasting of gothic motifs, such as the haunted house, the uncanny city, the grotesque body, and the breakdown of the family due to paternal incest, receives attention.
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