“Vulnerable Constitutions: Queerness, Disability, and the Remaking of American Manhood” by Cynthia Barounis— “An Alternative Queer-Crip Genealogy of American Masculinity in the Twentieth Century”

Barounis, Cynthia. “Vulnerable Constitutions: Queerness, Disability, and the Remaking of American Manhood”, Temple University Press, 2019.

“An Alternative Queer-Crip Genealogy of American Masculinity in the Twentieth Century”

Amos Lassen

Cynthia Barounis studies “the way American writers have fashioned alternative and even resistant epistemologies of queerness, disability, and masculinity” in order to understand the way perverse sexuality, physical damage, and bodily contamination have brought about masculine characters in twentieth- and early twenty-first-century literature.  Most of us do not think about the LGBT community and disability yet like all communities we have members who suffer some kind of disability. I actually never gave it much thought until I became friendly with several people who are disabled in some way.

Barounis introduces the concept of “anti-prophylactic citizenship” which is a form of political belonging that is characterized by vulnerability, receptivity, and risk and she uses this to examine counternarratives of American masculinity. She looks at the work of writers such as Jack London, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, and Eli Clare and presents an evolving narrative of medicalized sexuality and anti-prophylactic masculinity. The readings she chooses bring together queer theory, disability studies, and the history of medicine “to demonstrate how evolving scientific conversations around deviant genders and sexualities gave rise to a new model of national belonging—ultimately rewriting the story of American masculinity as a story of queer-crip rebellion.” This is quite an eye-opening study. Below is the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 

Introduction: Bodies That Leak; American Masculinity and Antiprophylactic Citizenship
1. “An Inherent Weakness of the Constitution”: Jack London’s Revolting Men 
2. “Love or Eugenics?”: Faulkner and Fitzgerald’s Crip Children 
3. “Not the Usual Pattern”: James Baldwin and the DSM 
4. Post-AIDS Permeability: Samuel Delany and Antiprophylaxis 
5. Prescribing Pleasure: Asexuality, Debility, and Trans Memoir 
Epilogue: Against Queer Resilience 

Notes
Bibliography
Index

 

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