Introduction: Queer Slumming

Scott Herring

in Queering the Underworld

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780226327907
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226327921 | DOI:
Introduction: Queer Slumming

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Through her slumming, like so many others both past and present, Mae West contributes to the ever-increasing visibility of the group identity of homosexuals in the United States as her controversial 1927 play, The Drag: A Homosexual Comedy ([1927] 1997), brings enigmatic bodies into sexual comprehension. This book explores the strategies undertaken by other slumming writers. Contrary to the generic expectations of slumming literatures such as The Drag, the book argues that a handful of U.S. writers and artists in the first half of the twentieth century queered the popular genre, turned the slumming narrative against itself, used it to manipulate homosexual identifications, and frustrated the compulsion to reveal underworld sexual knowledge. The cultures that the book examines sweep across three cultural and aesthetic movements: Progressive Era realism, the Afro-modernisms of the Harlem Renaissance, and expatriate Sapphic modernism.

Keywords: Mae West; United States; slumming; homosexuals; Progressive Era realism; Afro-modernisms; Harlem Renaissance; Sapphic modernism; group identity; aesthetic movements

Chapter.  8563 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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