By Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman
In opposed to the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and demanding situations cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century in the course of the 20th, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest renowned theories of id, pathology, nationwide belonging, and racial distinction in American tradition. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to express historic classes, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes similar to sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of specific racial accidents and urged kinds of social fix and political redress from the time of slavery, via post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black energy hobbies, to the past due 20th century. Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, serious race, and poststructuralist theories to endure on literary genres from slave narratives to technological know-how fiction. reading works through African American writers, together with Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she indicates how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African american citizens for person and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that these representations have been primary to the advance of African American varieties of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
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Additional info for Against the Closet: Identity, Political Longing, and Black Figuration
Noting that slave narratives document the inner workings of slavery in ways that the o≈cial records do not, I use slave narratives for their dual function as both historical documents and a literary genre. To engage theories, as well as the history, of the production of sexuality, this chapter emphasizes the ways in which two slave narratives that ‘‘the strangest freaks of despotism’’ 27 have amassed signiﬁcant cultural capital authorize a particular set of historical race relations and embody and inﬂuence sexual ideology.
Enslaved black men were feminized by virtue of their subjugation as slaves, the regularity with which many were castrated, and the denial of their patriarchal and citizenship rights. Enslaved black women were masculinized by virtue of their backbreaking labor on par with black men and their being denied male protection and provision.
Hopkins’s Contending Forces, for instance, situates the lynching of black men alongside the rape of black women, thereby subverting the conventional marriage plot of early black ﬁction. Faulkner’s Light in August depicts lynching as a gruesome, sexually charged cross-racial encounter meant to recover an already imperiled white masculinity but that, in its very homoerotic enthrallment, puts white masculinity into further crisis. By emphasizing the rape–lynch alliance in Hopkins and the homoerotic underpinnings of lynching in Faulkner, my hope is that chapter 2 will further our understanding of lynching as a kind of racialized gang rape, a profound expression of communal sexual perversion—speciﬁcally, one in which the victim of lynching is gruesomely violated for the psychic satisfaction of a whole host of participants and spectators.
Against the Closet: Identity, Political Longing, and Black Figuration by Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman