Advertisement

The Menace of Gay Aging: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956)

  • Linda M. Hess
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter’s focus lies on James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956). While the novel has received much critical attention, age and aging have been mentioned only in passing by scholars. Hess illustrates that themes of age and temporality crucially shape the narrative. She examines the novel’s central binary oppositions that function on the basis of age relations: the dichotomy of young, “pure,” heteronormative America versus old, permissive, decadent Europe, and the dichotomy of youthful, heterosexual masculinity versus aging, gay effeminacy. In the context of the Cold War era’s fixation on young hetero-masculinity, the figure of the aging gay man embodies the protagonist’s greatest fear: irrevocable failure—that is, exclusion from a meaningful life course—and exemplifies the discursive power of the heteronormative timeline to erase queer futurity.

References

  1. Abur-Rahman, Aliyyah I. 2007. ‘Simply a Menaced Boy’: Analogizing Color, Undoing Dominance in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. African American Review 41 (3): 477–786.Google Scholar
  2. All About Eve. 1950. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Twentieth Century Fox.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. 1952. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1973. Homosexuality and Sexual Orientation Disturbance: Proposed Change in DSM-II, 6th Printing, Page 44. The American Psychiatric Association. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.books.9780890420362.dsm-ii-6thprintingchange. Accessed 2 Feb 2014.
  5. Armengol, Josep M. 2012. In the Dark Room: Homosexuality and/as Blackness in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Signs 37 (3): 671–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Austen, Roger. 1977. Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in America. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril.Google Scholar
  7. Baker, Dorothy. (1943) 1945. Trio. Garden City: Sun Dial.Google Scholar
  8. Baldwin, James. 1953. Go Tell It on the Mountain. New York: Alfred Knopf.Google Scholar
  9. ———. (1956) 2001. Giovanni’s Room. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  10. Barnes, Djuna. (1936) 2006. Nightwood. New York: New Directions.Google Scholar
  11. Berger, Raymond. 1995. Gay and Gray: The Older Homosexual Man. Binghamton: Haworth.Google Scholar
  12. Chase, Jennifer. 2004. Berlin. In glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, ed. Claude J. Summers. https://glbtq.com. Accessed 9 Oct 2012.
  13. Chivers, Sally. 2011. The Silvering Screen: Old Age and Disability in Cinema. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  14. Conrad, Joseph. (1899) 1999. Heart of Darkness. London: Wordsworth.Google Scholar
  15. D’Emilio, John. 1983. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  16. DeGout, Yasemin Y. 1992. Dividing the Mind: Contradictory Portraits of Homoerotic Love in Giovanni’s Room. African American Review 26 (3): 425–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eaklor, Vicki L. 2008. Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  18. Exec. Order No 10450, 18 Fed. Reg. 2489 (Apr. 27, 1953). https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/10450.html
  19. Farmer, Brett. 2004. Paris. In glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, ed. Claude J. Summers. https://glbtq.com. Accessed 9 Oct 2012.
  20. Freedman, Estelle B. 1987. ‘Uncontrolled Desires’: The Response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920–1960. The Journal of American History 74 (1): 83–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goltz, Dustin B. 2010. Queer Temporalities in Gay Male Representation: Tragedy, Normativity, and Futurity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Heise, Thomas. 2011. Urban Underworlds: A Geography of Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hesford, Victoria. 2005. Patriotic Perversions: Patricia Highsmith’s Queer Vision of Cold War America in ‘The Price of Salt,’ ‘The Blunderer,’ and ‘Deep Water’. Women’s Studies Quarterly 33 (3–4): 215–233.Google Scholar
  24. Hoffman, Stanton. 1964. The Cities of Night: John Rechy’s City of Night and the American Literature of Homosexuality. Chicago Review 17 (2–3): 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, David K. 2004. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Joyce, Justin A., and Dwight A. McBride. 2009. James Baldwin and Sexuality. In A Historical Guide to James Baldwin, ed. Douglas Field, 111–139. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kinsey, Alfred, Wardell R. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. (1948) 1998. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Kinsey, Alfred, Wardell R. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin, and Paul H. Gebhard. (1953) 1999. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kinsman, Gary. 1995. ‘Character Weakness’ and ‘Fruit Machines’: Towards an Analysis of the Anti-homosexual Security Campaign in the Canadian Civil Service. Labour/Le Travail 35: 133–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Knauer, Nancy J. 2011. Gay and Lesbian Elders: History, Law, and Identity Politics in the United States. Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  31. Loftin, Craig M. 2007. Unacceptable Mannerisms: Gender Anxieties, Homosexual Activism, and Swish in the United States, 1945–1965. Journal of Social History 40 (3): 577–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mann, Thomas. (1912) 2009. Death in Venice. Trans. M. C. Doege. Boston: MobileReference.Google Scholar
  33. McNamara, Charles. 2003. Literary Geniuses Expatriates in Paris from Gertrude Stein and James Joyce to Samuel Beckett and the Beats. Chapel Hill: Academic Affairs Library, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  34. Morgan, Bill, and Nancy J. Peters. 2006. Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression. San Francisco: City Lights.Google Scholar
  35. Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Peters, Fritz. (1951) 2006. Finistère. 1951. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp.Google Scholar
  37. Phillips, Caryl. 2001. Introduction to Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, v–xi. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  38. Schmidt, Tyler T. 2007. White Pervert: Tracing Integration’s Queer Desires in African American Novels of the 1950s. Women’s Studies Quarterly 35 (1–2): 149–171.Google Scholar
  39. Sunset Boulevard. 1950. Directed by Billy Wilder. Paramount.Google Scholar
  40. Tamagne, Florence. 2006. A History of Homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris 1919–1930. New York: Algora.Google Scholar
  41. Vidal, Gore. (1948) 2003. The City and the Pillar. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  42. Washington, Bryan R. 1995. The Beast in Giovanni’s Room. In The Politics of Exile: Ideology in Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin, 70–91. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Weatherby, William J. 1989. James Baldwin: Artist on Fire. New York: Fine.Google Scholar
  44. West, Anthony. 1956. Review of Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. New Yorker 10, November, pp. 219–224.Google Scholar
  45. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962. Directed by Robert Aldrich. Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  46. Wohlmann, Anita. 2014. Aged Young Adults: Age Readings of Contemporary American Novels and Films. Bielefeld: Transcript.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Hess
    • 1
  1. 1.Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

Personalised recommendations