Between Boys: Fantasy of Male Homosexuality in Boys’ Love, Mary Renault, and Marguerite Yourcenar
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“Between Boys: Fantasy of Male Homosexuality in Boys’ Love, Mary Renault, and Marguerite Yourcenar” examines an unexpected kinship between Boys’ Love, a Japanese male-on-male romance genre, and literary works by Mary Renault and Marguerite Yourcenar, two mid-twentieth century authors who wrote about male homosexuality. Following Eve Sedgwick, who proposed that a “rich tradition of cross-gender inventions of homosexuality” should be studied separately from gay and lesbian literature, this dissertation examines male homoerotic fictions authored by women. These fictions foreground a disjunction between authorial and textual identities in gender and sexuality, and they have often been accused of inauthenticity, appropriation, and exploitation. This dissertation cuts through these critical impulses by suspending their attachment to identitarian thinking and a hierarchical understanding of political radicality in order to account for the seduction of fantasy in these texts.
Exploring narrative strategies, critical receptions, textual and extra-textual relationalities produced by the three bodies of works, this dissertation delineates a paradigm for reading cross-gender homoerotic texts that is neither gay nor queer, neither paranoid nor reparative, and instead focuses on fantasy and how it produces pleasure. Fantasy is used in two senses here: as a preoccupation with relationships in romantic fantasies and as a desire to depart from the here and now. By thinking through both forms of fantasies, I examine the misalignments between identity and identifications in Boys’ Love, Renault’s historical novels about ancient Greece, and Yourcenar’s cross-identifications with gender, temporal, and cultural otherness. Close readings of not only the texts in question, but also discourses around them reveal erotic relationalities both within and outside of male homoerotic fantasies. The end of the dissertation reroutes my discussions back to Japan and debates about gay authenticity in order to foreground fantastical connections that would otherwise be overlooked in a reading that focuses more on identity than disidentifications, cross-identifications, and relationalities.
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