Lost Causes: Narrative, Etiology, and Queer Theory

Paperback | October 15, 2014

byValerie Rohy

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Lost Causes stages a polemical intervention in the discourse that grounds queer civil rights in etiology - that is, in the cause of homosexuality, whether choice, "recruitment," or biology. Reading etiology as a narrative form, political strategy, and hermeneutic method in American and Britishliterature and popular culture, it argues that today's gay arguments for biological determinism accept their opponents' paranoia about what Rohy calls "homosexual reproduction"-that is, nonsexual forms of queer increase-preventing more complex ways of considering sexuality and causality. This study combines literary texts and psychoanalytic theory - two salient sources of etiological narratives in themselves - to reconsider phobic tropes of homosexual reproduction: contagion in Borrowed Time, bad influence in The Picture of Dorian Gray, trauma in The Night Watch, choice of identityin James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, and dangerous knowledge in The Well of Loneliness. These readings draw on Lacan's notion of retroactive causality to convert the question of what causes homosexuality into a question of what homosexuality causes as the constitutiveoutside of a heteronormative symbolic order. Ultimately, this study shows, queer communities and queer theory must embrace formerly shaming terms - why should the increase of homosexuality be unthinkable? - while retaining the critical sense of queerness as a non-identity, a permanent negativity.

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Lost Causes stages a polemical intervention in the discourse that grounds queer civil rights in etiology - that is, in the cause of homosexuality, whether choice, "recruitment," or biology. Reading etiology as a narrative form, political strategy, and hermeneutic method in American and Britishliterature and popular culture, it argues t...

Val Rohy is Professor of English at the University of Vermont. She is the author of Anachronism and Its Others: Sexuality, Race, Temporality (SUNY Press, 2009) and Impossible Women: Lesbian Figures and American Literature (Cornell University Press, 2000).

other books by Valerie Rohy

Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:October 15, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019934020X

ISBN - 13:9780199340200

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. Introduction: Cause and Effect2. On Homosexual Reproduction3. Strange Influence: The Picture of Dorian Gray4. Return from the Future: James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography5. Desire and the Scene of Reading: The Well of Loneliness6. The Future in Ruins: Borrowed Time7. Contingency for Beginners: The Night Watch8. Conclusion: Multiply and DivideNotes