Notes: Eric H. Newman, “Ephemeral Utopias: Queer Cruising, Literary Form, and Diasoporic Imagination in Claude McKay’s Home in Harlem and Banjo”

Newman, Eric H. (2015). Ephemeral utopias: Queer cruising, literary form, and diasporic imagination in Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem and Banjo. Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, 38(1), 167-185.

Summary:

Newman examine’s McKay’s work as being structured through queer associations with cruising and diaspora.

Keywords: diaspora, critical race theory, LGBTQ, queer, queer studies, utopianism

Quotations:

“Though queer sexual encounters in early-twentieth-century America were often clandestine affairs of fleeting duration, the sexual practices that organized such encounters were as powerful as they were ephemeral, making imaginable a community that could appear and disappear virtually anywhere and which composed itself out of a promiscuous assortment of classed and racialized bodies” (p. 167-168).

“[C]ruising is defined in two distinct but complementary ways: wandering or lingering in public places looking for anonymous, casual sex; and, as a peregrinating movement through dense urban space that finds transgressive pleasure and stimulation in random encounters with the persons, objects, and architecture that constellate the modern metropolis” (p. 169).

“The context in which cruising unfolds in the novel—across spaces populated by queers and largely organized by the circulation of same-sex desire—makes visible the relationship between queerness, as practice and habitation, and the novel’s diasporic vision. Queer encounters, or encounters with queers, offer a consciousness-raising education for McKay’s heterosexual characters” (p. 172).

“Cruising brings out a love of difference that transcends the limits of nation and language as it moves the body through ephemeral and powerful contact with a range of anonymous partners. As eroticized travel, cruising in McKay’s novels is oriented toward the utopian “beauty of other horizons,” the possibility of an encounter with others that does not adhere to national, racial, or class distinctions, but which promiscuously finds love everywhere” (p. 175).

“In its resistance to the normative organization of bodies and time, the ephemerality of cruising gives it the unique capacity to (re)envision the relationship between the self and the other in ways that constitute a new orientation to the world predicated on an anti-teleological looping of attachment to and detachment from an ever-expanding pool of bodies and spaces” (p. 176).

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