Against the Closet: Identity, Political Longing, and Black Figuration

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Duke University Press, Sep 4, 2012 - Literary Collections - 200 pages
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In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.

Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.

 

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Contents

Against the Closet Racial Logic and the Bodily BasisBiases of Sexual Identity
1
Queer Sexuality in Antebellum African American Slave Narratives
25
Or Black Enfranchisement White Disavowal and the Homoerotics of Lynching
51
3 Desire and Treason in MidTwentiethCentury Political Protest Fiction
82
4 Recovering the Little Black Girl Incest and Black American Textuality
114
In Memoriam Michael Jackson 19582009
151
Notes
157
Works Cited
181
Index
193
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About the author (2012)

Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman is Assistant Professor of English at Brandeis University.

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