Deviant Modernism: Sexual and Textual Errancy in T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust

Deviant Modernism: Sexual and Textual Errancy in T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust

Deviant Modernism: Sexual and Textual Errancy in T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust

Deviant Modernism: Sexual and Textual Errancy in T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust

Synopsis

This original study reevaluates central texts of the modernist canon--Eliot's early poetry including The Waste Land, Joyce's Ulysses and Proust's Remembrance of Things Past--by examining sexual energies and identifications in them that are typically regarded as perverse. Colleen Lamos' analysis of the operations of gender and sexuality in these texts reveals conflicts, concerning the definition of masculine heterosexuality, which cut across the aesthetics of modernism. What emerges is a reconsideration of modernist literature as a whole, gender categories, and the relation between errant sexuality and literary "mistakes."

Excerpt

This book had its beginning some years ago when, confronted by the lingering authority of T. S. Eliot's poetry and prose, I wondered where he went wrong — that is, where he strayed from his stated purposes. In the course of my research I discovered an early poem, “Ode, ” which Eliot had suppressed, that opened a series of doors for me onto the vagrant tendencies of his work as a whole and that offered an entirely different view of Anglo-American modernism. It became clear that his creative and critical works were engaged in a struggle against identifications and desires that he considered perverse yet that found symptomatic expression within his own texts. Subsequent investigation of the writings of James Joyce and Marcel Proust led me to ask the questions to which this book is the answer. I wondered how our understanding of canonical male modernist authors and of so-called high modernism would be different if we were to examine the ways in which their texts swerve from their explicit or implicit intentions. What if the errant elements in their works were given a central place in the assessment of their position as the defining authors of modern literature? How would Eliot, Joyce, and Proust appear if we viewed them in terms of the ways in which they go astray; specifically, how would they look when seen through the lens of the gender anxieties and homosexual desires that pervade their works, yet which they displaced or disavowed?

The primary aim of this study is to analyze the significant effects of sexual energies and identifications that, for male subjects, were (and are) coded as deviant according to modern cultural discourses and psychosexual categorizations, in the works of writers who are widely regarded as the major figures of literary modernism. These desires and identifications fall under the heading of perversion inasmuch as they are believed to feminize or homosexualize men. My purpose is not to uncover the genuine sexual orientations or gender identities of these authors or their fictional characters but to examine the operations of the gender and . . .

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