Heroic Desire: Lesbian Identity and Cultural Space
"Lesbians are adept at constructing survival strategies. Our being in this world exacts a cost, and our identities mutate to incorporate and resist that cost. The reality of our world is our relentless demand for presence, an occupation of space which we have colonized for ourselves, in the name of a configuration of desires we call 'lesbian', -- the more reflective we can become about these tactics, the more powerful is our rhetoric of existence".
This book is concerned with the ways contemporary lesbians have taken up imaginative and material space. It describes the mechanics of presence, how modern lesbians have produced a discursive space which offers a refutation to the closet. Identities are produced, expressed, and authenticated by and through space. Understanding "real" and metaphorical spatial structures helps us to discover new sites of presence and resistance. Some famous spaces, such as New York, Paris, and Berlin, have been constitutive of modern gay and lesbian identities. Social spaces teach us something about the relations of domination and subordination around us, and we have seen recently in that struggle "to be", a growing politics of location and locatedness.
Space is also taken imaginatively. Our narratives, which have become moral and political handbooks, provide role models for building and consolidating identities and communities. By processes of interpretation, drawing from literary and cultural theory, the author displays ways in which lesbian identities are ascribed, resisted and embraced. The structure of the book is provided by the choice of models the author sees as organizing and mobilizing contemporary lesbian desire: the hero, the flaneur, thelesbian outlaw, the butch body and the lesbian nation. The lesbian flaneur and the lesbian hero are emotive figures of movement; both explore possibilities for lesbian identity and subjectivity. Both are adaptations of mainstream representations which have been manipulated for a lesbian political agenda, by contemporary North American writers, whose works the author explores in depth. The imagination, and experience, constitute dialectically the lesbian subject, and literature, the author demonstrates, is a principal forum for the exploration and testing of lesbian subjectivity, operating on an unconscious and emotional level.
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The ideal reader will interpret the modalities I offer here - the hero , the flâneur ,
the butch , the outlaw , the nation - to reconceptualize that most shifting and
pressing of concepts , space . ( Of course , there is no ideal reader , but I write for
The effect is also utopian , offering a vision of how the world could be if only we
got our act together . The lesbian feminist novels of the 1970s spring to mind , in
their attempts to produce ' real women ' struggling for change . The same agenda
These novels offer lesbians a mirror which hegemonic ideas of subjectivity lack .
Recognition concerns the conferral of selfhood through desire and identification :
I return to my earlier comment - we want the hero and we want to be the hero ...
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The Lesbian Hero
The Lesbian Flâneur
The Butch Body
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