A new history of the queer novel shows its role in constructing gay and lesbian lives
The gay and lesbian novel has long been a distinct literary genre with its own awards, shelving categories, bookstore spaces, and book reviews. But very little has been said about the remarkable history of its emergence in American literature, particularly the ways in which the novel about homosexuality did not just reflect but actively produced queer life.
Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s insight that the history of society is connected to the history of language, author Natasha Hurley charts the messy, complex movement by which the queer novel produced the very frames that made it legible as a distinct literature and central to the imagination of queer worlds. Her vision of the queer novel's development revolves around the bold argument that literary circulation is the key ingredient that has made the gay and lesbian novel and its queer forebears available to its audiences.
Challenging the narrative that the gay and lesbian novel came into view in response to the emergence of homosexuality as a concept, Hurley posits a much longer history of this novelistic genre. In so doing, she revises our understanding of the history of sexuality, as well as of the processes of producing new concepts and the evolution of new categories of language.