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Author Salvato, Nicholas
Title Uncloseting drama: Modernism's queer theaters
ISBN 9780542653667
book jacket
Descript 230 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 67-04, Section: A, page: 1343
Advisers: Joseph Roach; Michael Trask
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Yale University, 2006
This dissertation examines the significant queer dimensions of modernist closet drama, with particular emphasis on the dramatic writing of Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes. Each of these authors was aware of the (largely British) Romantic tradition of closet drama, and they all saw themselves as interventionists in this tradition. While ambiguity and deviance may be symptomatic of the closet drama as such, I argue that only in the twentieth century, when sexual discourses are ubiquitous and sexual identities are codified, does the queering of closet drama become a truly significant phenomenon. In a modern context, the instability of the closet drama as a genre becomes intimately related to the unstable and permeable mode of queerness. If closet drama is unintended for performance, unperformed, or at least "unsuitable" for performance, does it cease to be closet drama when brought to the stage? Or does a resistance to performance registered in the dramatic text linger even in or after performance? Rather than take one side or another of this issue, I claim that the special quality of closet drama lies precisely in its undecided---and undecidable---relationship to performance. Like the figure of Saint Therese in Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts, "half in and half out of doors," closet drama is always half on and half off the stage. The very act of writing a play constitutes an implicit invitation to performance, even as writing an unperformable play rescinds in some way the invitation
Similarly, the word "queer" announces not so much a category as a border-crossing between categories, if not the contestation of categorization altogether. I use the concept of queerness not to designate a static site of lesbian and gay identity, but to gesture toward transgressive movements between and among different positions of sex, gender, and desire. Just as the closet drama approaches the stage ambivalently and ambiguously, so does the queer refuse to fit neatly into stable sexual roles. Thus, queerness produces confusions and contortions akin to those of closet drama, and closet drama provides a uniquely suitable space for the expression of queer sensibilities. As I offer readings of the queer sensibilities expressed in modernist closet drama, I also consider what other queer elements emerge in representative contemporary productions of the plays of Pound, Zukofsky, Stein, and Barnes---what happens, in other words, when modernist closet drama is "uncloseted."
School code: 0265
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 67-04A
Subject Theater
Literature, American
Alt Author Yale University
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