Written in Blood: AIDS and the Politics of Genre.
Abstract: This dissertation will argue that the AIDS text's tendency to
explicitly place itself in specific generic histories and traditions is an effort to
challenge or access the cultural fantasies associated with those traditions. Works produced
in response to the AIDS epidemic are often explicitly marked as belonging or not belonging,
challenging or embracing particular generic conventions ... read morefor political aims in relation to
the perceived needs of the specific reading publics to which they are addressed. It is not
my aim to argue for or against the validity of these generic fantasies, but to demonstrate
the ways in which they are an integral organizing principle of so many representations of
AIDS in American cultural life. Each chapter will explore how AIDS was accommodated as a
subject by a variety of generic traditions, and will follow a somewhat chronological
structure. I begin with "ground zero" for AIDS writers grappling with genre in the early
years of the epidemic: historically consolatory writing in honor of the dead in the form of
obituaries and elegies. Secondly, I explore the uses of sentimentality and American
quilting histories in the development of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Next, I
trace a developing tradition of AIDS novels as they respond to shifting historical and
political realities and challenge the stability of a coherent narrative of the AIDS
epidemic. Finally, a coda examines a spate of documentaries that were released around the
30th anniversary of what were thought to be the first reported cases of HIV infection. My
focus on texts by mostly gay men is an attempt to trace the development of AIDS writing
proper to queer reading publics and is not meant to erase the impact of the epidemic on
other disenfranchised communities in its early years; people of color, women, IV drug
users, the homeless, sex workers--many of whom also identified as gay--all have unique
relationships to these genres. Likewise, the absence of such a relationship (for example,
the lack of obituaries for the homeless) is worthy of its own study. An exploration of the
generic traditions of AIDS texts is especially appropriate not just because, as I argue,
the texts often beg for attention to their generic dimensions, but also because as a body
of work itself, AIDS writing is obviously quite new and the conventions, fantasies and
traditions which comprise it are relatively underexplored.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2013.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Virginia Jackson.
Committee: Heather Love, Modhumita Roy, and Stephan Pennington.
Keyword: American literature.read less
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