Alien tears : mourning, melancholia, and identity in AIDS literature
This thesis examines the literary response to the AIDS crisis. It concentrates on literature produced between 1988 and 1995, published in English, and available in Britain and the United States. The AIDS texts investigated here are representative of other AIDS literature produced during this time period in the way that they both enact and construct the identities of those affected by AIDS. Mourning and melancholia are the operative responses revealed in the literature, and revealed as the formative components of changing identities in response to AIDS and its manifestations. The thesis is structured in six chapters: a theoretical introductory chapter that proposes mourning and loss as pre-existing concerns in gay men's literature, followed by a chapter addressing gay AIDS fiction and its narrative response to mourning. The next two chapters examine hybrid texts, that is, AIDS texts that do not conform to a conventional narrative form, and that are connected more firmly to a queer sensibility than to a gay identity. These texts, the thesis claims, are engaged with the processes (and resistances) of melancholia rather than with the work of mourning. The subsequent chapter addresses fictions of caretaking and witnessing, that is, novels written from the point of view of one who is caring for an other ill with AIDS. These are identified as more mainstream texts as they involve representations that are not connected to declared sexual identities and therefore mean to address a wider audience and to work out a more public discourse of grief around AIDS. In conclusion, the thesis suggests that although AIDS literature is involved in an effort to resist loss through narrative form, in fact it is the literature that in some instrumental ways makes the work of mourning and melancholia in response to AIDS productive rather than debilitating.