The bad homosexual: Genet's perverse homo-politics

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Publication details

Stephens, E 2012, 'The bad homosexual: Genet's perverse homo-politics', Sexualities: studies in culture and society, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 28-41.

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http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1177/1363460711432095

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Although widely recognized as pivotal texts in the history of homosexual literature, Genet’s novels occupied a largely negative position within gay criticism of the 1990s, by which they were seen to reproduce heterocentric, even homophobic assumptions about same-sex desire. This article argues that Genet’s contentious decision to articulate homoerotic desire within the space of a heteronormative language is one necessitated by the structural constraints of language itself. Metafictively drawing attention to the absence of a language in which to communicate homoerotic desire, Genet represents his narrators and characters as locked in a closet of heteronormative language. His strategic response to this silencing is to appropriate and recontextualize heterocentric and homophobic discourses in ways that problematize their assumed heteronormativity. In contrast to the gay critical focus on whether Genet himself has internalized heteronormative assumptions about his sexuality and subjectivity, Genet’s texts remind us that the question is not simply an individualized one of what the author him/herself thinks, but rather how s/he might articulate expressions of desire within a language that seems designed to erase such expressions of difference.

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