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Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History

ISBN-13: 978-0226327914
ISBN-10: 0226327914
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Editorial Reviews


“Why read slumming narratives if not to get the lowdown on low life? With brilliant perversity, Scott Herring celebrates a group of American writers—among them, Willa Cather, Jane Addams, and Djuna Barnes—who remystified what slumming literature had appeared to demystify, thereby undermining the genre's promise of subcultural legibility. In this original and important work of cultural history, Herring makes a very timely argument for what he calls ‘sexual unknowing’—an argument, essentially, for saving our underworlds by renouncing our fierce and destructive desire to reduce them to objects of knowledge.”

(Leo Bersani, University of California, Berkeley 2007-07-26)

“Scott Herring’s bravely searching book deserves wide and careful attention. At once a compelling account of modern U.S. slumming literatures and a persuasive polemical intervention in contemporary queer studies, Queering the Underworld is original in conception, efficient in execution, and consistently engaging.”

(Christopher Looby, University of California, Los Angeles 2007-06-21)

“Beautifully written and boldly argued, Queering the Underworld makes an invigorating contribution to the fields of American studies and queer studies. In agile readings of varied sources, Herring not only resituates ‘slumming’ as a genre that could sometimes jam the signals of sexual modernity in the U.S., but also demonstrates the larger stakes of an unflinchingly queer approach to the history of sexuality.”

(Siobhan Somerville, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2007-07-30)

"Powerfully researched, passionately argued and often beautifully written. . . . Herring is scrupulous—and excellent—in setting his chosen texts in dialogue with each other, with the historical forces that produced them."—Denis Flannery, Times Higher Education

(Denis Flannery Times Higher Education)

"In this original, accessible, and important work of US cultural history, Herring contributes to scholarship on the anomalous position of slumming literature (sordid narratives about the underworld and its bizarre inhabitants) in the early 20th century."

"This sprightly, informative book does a rare thing: it covers entirely new territory in gay literary studies. . . . A fine, compelling, and original work."

(Richard Canning Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide)

“Scott Herring’s Queering the Underworld stages a different departure from identity, whose strength is not its subtlety but its bravado—offering, perhaps, the most original conceptual account of queer identity since Epistemology of the Closet.”

(Jordan Alexander Stein American Literature)

About the Author

Scott Herring is assistant professor of English at Indiana University.


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