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Title: Sexuality and identity in the novels of Edmund White.
Author: Purvis, Tony.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3503 0857
Awarding Body: University of Sunderland
Current Institution: University of Sunderland
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis examines the representation of sexuality and identity in six novels written by Edmund White. Issues specifically related to gay male sexuality and homosexual/gay identity politics are discussed in Chapter One. These issues are developed in Chapter Two's exploration of sexuality, coming out, outing, and narrative. However, the first two chapters also facilitate the introduction and critical expansion of key contextual and theoretical concerns. On the one hand, White's output is shaped and informed by the cultural, historical and political circumstances which have conditioned how gay male sexuality has been discursively figured and represented over the last forty years. On the other hand, his work has been inflected by theorisations of sexuality which have called into question the very specificity of a homosexual and/or gay identity. Drawing principally on theorisations of sexuality and identity in the work of ludith Butler, Lee Edelman, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the first two chapters propose that the relations between sexuality and identity are unstable and discontinuous. Chapter Three's examination of narrative strategies contends that White's Forgetting /;;lena (1973), and Nocturnes for the King (if Naples (1978), excite readings of same-sex desire which are unable to specify an essential or natural difference between heterosexual and homosexual identities. Alert, nevertheless, to the political contexts which compel all sexual identity claims, Chapter Four observes how White's deployment of fantasy enables his novel Caracole (1985) to consider why identities and communities are labelled gay or straight in the first instance. Critical essays on White's work rightly note his novels' apparent preoccupation with gay male self-representation. However, discussing A Boy's Own Story (1982), and The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988), Chapter Five aims to expose the limitations of homosexual and gender definition. Indeed, if the relations between sex, gender and identity are neither clear nor continuous, then perhaps White's novels bring out such gender trouble. The examination of gay sex, sexuality and AIDS in Ihe Farewell Symphony (1997) observes why acts of gay self-nomination are politically necessary in homophobic cultures. However, this final chapter discusses why White's work appears reluctant to determine the meaning of sexuality and identity in any resolute way. Such queer irresolution, this thesis contends, enables the fiction to critique the past. Nevertheless, simply to say farewell to this past is to ignore the conditions of a future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: American fiction; Gay male; Homosexual