Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

No Place like Home: Re-Writing "Home" and Re-Locating Lesbianism in Emma Donoghue's Stir-Fry and Hood

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

No Place like Home: Re-Writing "Home" and Re-Locating Lesbianism in Emma Donoghue's Stir-Fry and Hood

Article excerpt

Re-Defining 'Home'

If, as popular and colloquial phrases have historically reminded us, 'home is where the hearth is' and 'an Englishman's castle is his home,' then in the 'home' resides both a patriarchal and heteronormative assumption. After all, it is an 'English' 'man's' castle that is a home, not a woman's, suggesting that ownership of the home is defined by male dominance. Furthermore, the hearth is both a physical space in a house and a metaphor for familial relationships that emphasize how the heteronormative family--understood as a husband, his wife and their children --also delineate 'home.' Consequentially, these familial relationships, which promote heteronormativity through their marital and reproductive status, result in the home becoming synonymous with heterosexuality. Queer theorist Alan Sinfield recognises the association of home as constructed by--and furthering--heteronormativity when he asserts that 'most of us [homosexuals] are born and/or socialised into (presumably) heterosexual families [and that] [w]e have to move away from them, at least to some degree; and into, if we are lucky, the culture of a minority community' (103). However, in proposing that homosexuals need to depart a traditional, familial home space and move into an alternative 'minority community' that can accommodate their sexual identity, Sinfield's assertion fails to proffer a means of moving beyond the confines of the heteronormative home and resolve tensions between queer identity and belonging. To re-address this, instead, I suggest re-defining the 'queer home' by utilising theorizations positioned in the social sciences as they provide an appropriate framework for exploring the novels of award-winning Irish-born, Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue, as she negotiates the tensions involved in lesbian homemaking in her early writings Stir-Fry (1994) and Hood (1995).

Although acknowledging the efficacy of Sinfield's remarks in highlighting the implications of sexuality in relation to the home, I believe they also raise questions about how we consider the hetero/homo binary in broader socio-cultural terms and suggest a need to reconsider the relationship between home and sexuality by challenging the conceptual understanding of home itself. Sinfield's perspective concurrently reveals the naturalised and socially invisible heteronormativity of the traditional home space but it also furthers the either/or binary of sexual 'normativity' by suggesting homosexuals have to move out of this 'normative' space into a lesser 'minority community;' suggestively othering themselves, to employ queer theory's terminology here. This paper's interrogation of the home space builds on the theorizations of David Bell et al., whose work on gender, sexuality and place, suggests a 'need to understand the straightness of our streets as an artifact; to interrogate the presumed authentic heterosexual nature of everyday spaces' (32). The home is one such 'artifact.' Environmental scientist Roderick Lawrence, a specialist in urban ecology and housing, argues 'the concept of the home is ambiguous,' as a site of relative and not absolute definition, the home subsequently becomes a fluid location of multiple possibilities (Deciphering 53). This fluidity resonates with queer theory's view of identity, epitomised by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's assertion that 'queer' is as an 'open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements [...] aren't made (or can't be made) to signify monolithically' (Tendencies 8). Like identity then, the home is not a unified site or a solidly defined entity but a construction that can change over time.

A home is often formed within a house, but it is a term that is an interweaving of a physical location alongside the objects, feelings, memories and people that interact within this space. As Carol Werner et al argue, 'people and their environments are an integral and inseparable unit; they cannot be defined separately, and indeed are mutually defining' (2). …

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