Henry James and Queer Modernity (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture)
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Eric Haralson examines the far-reaching changes in gender politics and the emergence of modern male homosexuality in writings of Henry James and three authors greatly influenced by him: Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway. Emphasizing American masculinity portrayed in fiction between 1875 and 1935, Haralson traces James' engagement with sexual politics from his first novels of the 1870s to his "major phase" at the turn of the century.
window-pane . . . that reminded him of the gay city” (T 3). Gay “Paree,” in Hemingway’s extended joke, had been a grim scene of sexual humiliation for Yogi Johnson, causing his regression to the sort of boyish sensualism so fondly evoked in such Anderson stories as “I’m a Fool” and “I Want to Know Why”: “Well, Yogi thought, women are gone . . . but I still have my love of horses” (T 52). Granting Michael Reynolds’s point that Anderson’s ﬁctional men (like Anderson himself ) indulged in the very
“obscenity” remains “concealed from all but the most determined reader,” yet the parody also invites such a reader to ask whether James’s elaborate circumlocutions do not screen a homosexual subtext in his life and work.48 Not to leave my own readers in suspense, the sexual act-in-progress results in a “consummation . . . [not] the most . . . satisfying,” or as the narrator summarizes (duly scatologically), “in the end, little would seem to have come of it all.” Indeed, it is to the pathetic
“The Author of ‘Beltrafﬁo,’ ” with its picture of an artist’s destructive marriage – James described himself as already a “hardened bachelor,” hardened against some “twenty” would-be matchmakers (mostly women) whose machinations ﬁnally goaded him into an overt challenge to normative presumption. Troping the diction of marital bliss, James refused to “renounc[e] my happy state” by taking on such “complicating appendages” as “a conjugal Mrs. H[enry]” and chastised Anglo-American society for
‘Paul’s Case’ ” (published in 1905) as being “stocky in build” with “a marked directness of aspect” and a “distinctly” handsome (that is, distinctly not “pretty”) face. After this catalog of fairly “masculine” attributes, especially Cather’s signature look of “a person [not] easily . . . diverted from [a] chosen course,” one is perhaps startled when she is summarized as representing “altogether a ﬁne healthy specimen of young womanhood.”5 In fact, these two anecdotes ask to be conjoined: on the
“difference” that Tom’s death makes for St. Peter suffuses the entire plot of The Professor’s Willa Cather, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde 167 House, provoking his crisis of sexual identity. Notably, that crisis occurs while he communes in memory with an Outland remembered as all “kindling imagination,” his “superabundance of heat” purely mental in origin and effect – ﬁrst seeming to indicate a mere replay of the masculine ´ friendship in My Antonia. But such immaterial things (the novel’s