Willa Cather's Experiment in Luxury

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:
Willa Cather's Experiment in Luxury

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This chapter discusses queer slumming and its mystery literatures, examining Michel Foucault's generalized claim that “the deployment of sexuality which first developed on the fringes of familial institutions … gradually became focused on the family.” It does not imply that Progressive Era spinster bashing transferred onto other errant U.S. bodies, although it is striking to note that another sexually suspect figure—the vice-ridden male adolescent—emerged from inside the middle-class family during the first decades of the twentieth century. Like the spinster's public misdeeds, perversion during adolescence signaled, for some, the decline of Anglo-Saxon civilization. The chapter explores Willa Cather's 1905 short story “Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament,” one of the first literary attempts to question turn-of-the-century discourses on perverse sexuality, middle-class white male adolescence, and vice tendencies.

Keywords: queer slumming; Michel Foucault; sexuality; family; Progressive Era; adolescence; sexual indiscretions; Anglo-Saxon civilization; Willa Cather; perversion

Chapter.  15526 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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