Aids in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Fiction
Based on reflections made as part of activities of the project developed by me along with Professor Italo Morriconi at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, entitled Body and History in contemporary
literature and culture: the writing of AIDS (critical reading and documentary researches), and having as its start point a comparative study on gay literature - more specifically, the writing of AIDS - I have decided to start a research about what seemed to be an important issue in the understanding of the homosexual literary production in the post-Stonewall era: the reference, in North American LGTB literature, of its most impressive contemporary mark, the AIDS epidemic.
This project evolves around the writing of AIDS in homoerotic texts. For “writing of AIDS” it is understood the effects that the emergence of the epidemic had over the homosexual community, as well as the impact of this presence in literature. It is undeniable the fact that the appearance of AIDS is responsible for an alteration in the process through which the homosexual is absorbed by the heterosexual community, and by the homosexual community itself. Such alteration inflicted a new perception of the self, one that transformed the gay and lesbian literature in a irreversible way. The gay universe, then, is forever touched by AIDS, its birth, personification and presence.
Since 1980, when AIDS appeared in America, it has changed from an unspeakable secret to an acknowledged and “written” reality. In the Reagan years it caused a change in the direction of gay and lesbian
poetry and fiction. An amazing amount of AIDS literature has emerged since, specially considering the short span of the epidemic, and in the United States the majority of this literature has been gay. This reflects the destruction in the gay community caused by the disease, as well as a gap between the sub division of the gay literature: the male and the female writing.
Although the lesbian community have not been as struck as their gay brothers by the AIDS pandemic, they have suffered their losses. And although lesbians are involved with AIDS related causes - having also experienced some of the social backlash from the epidemic - they have, strangely, written very little about it. Bonnie Zimmerman suggests that this has much to say about the general mood of the community today; lesbians are more inclined to act than to write about it. And this fight against the disease unites both the gay and the lesbian community. In many ways, the struggle against AIDS has brought gay man and lesbians alike back to 1969, where the fight began.
In the literary and cultural contemporary universes it is undeniable the importance of the queer studies. Queer studies include the exam, the analysis and the interpretation of the phenomenon characterized by the one’s emotional, romantic and sexual preferences for other of the same sex. It is, due to its nature, a trans-disciplinary study, covering a wide range of intellectual basis: literature, history, religion, psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, medicine, law, arts, among others. This intellectual and cultural presence is questioned, denied or marginalized by inhibiting factors such as legal restrictions on specific ways of sexual behavior, the lack of organization among the LGTB community, and the resistance to the acceptance by a society - in its majority composed of heterosexual - of the values and merits of the different forms of emotional and erotic expression.
Once that the homosexual literature and culture can be found more and more integrated and linked to the studies of gender, body and history, it is evident the importance of the body as an instrument in the formation of a social identity, and that the use of such instrument, its different forms and aspects, influence the maintenance of such identity. It is then that AIDS becomes one of the most important questions in this area.
This project is a study in the comparative and transnational areas, being that it deals with the differences and similarities in the writing of a same subject by authors of different genders. A critical-comparative analysis of the works of two prominent authors in the LGTB contemporary
American literature - Paul Monette and Sarah Schulman - will be made, and its goal is not only to establish differences and similarities in the writing of AIDS, but also to draw a parallel between the female and the male literary texts. This comparison cannot avoid examining the double standard of exclusion related to the lesbian community - gender and sexual orientation - as well as the bigger impact the male gay community suffered as a consequence of the emergence of AIDS.
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