Strange Bodies: Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers

By Sarah Gleeson-White | Go to book overview

2
Queer Grotesques
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and
Reflections in a Golden Eye

In the previous chapter's examination of freakish and grotesque adolescence, I argued that McCullers's portraits of the young girls point to a kind of becoming. In this chapter, I look at another type of freakish subjectivity—male homosexuality. To read homosexuality in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Reflections in a Golden Eye is to stress again the radical nature of McCullers's vision, which embraces a particularly dynamic politics of the body. However, as I show, McCullers struggles to achieve this vision, as she confronts the still pressing problems of how to engage with the multiple meanings and possibilities of sexuality and gender. Freudian theory strongly influences McCullers's portraits of homosexual men, resulting, at times, in fairly orthodox portraits of homosexual desire, particularly in terms of the male homosexual's rejection of women, sexual impotence, narcissism, and decadence. On one level, I would suggest that McCullers relies on a more traditional configuration of homosexuality as a type of coding, allowing her to escape the censorship that disciplined the cultural scene of her times. However, on another level, that McCullers often uses damaging sexual stereotypes points to the difficulty of accessing a new language and a new body of images with which to represent grote s que desires. Her discernible struggle to depict a new configuration of homosexual desire, which is productive, testifies to the difficulty of her radical project and forces us to think more deeply about gender's complex relation to bodies and sexuality.

Although the term “homosexuality” was in circulation for almost fifty years before McCullers was writing her fiction,1 she was the first southern

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