Date of Degree

2-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor(s)

Ammiel Alcalay

Committee Members

Steven Kruger

Mario DiGangi

Subject Categories

American Literature | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Nonfiction

Keywords

LGBTQ, memoir, lifewriting, American, contemporary

Abstract

This dissertation examines American memoirs written after 2000 by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors with an eye to how the recent institutionalization of queer theory and the open production of LGBTQ histories affect these writers’ conceptions of their lives, aspirations, and cultures. I argue that these memoirs, sometimes consciously, find themselves struggling with what are also competing ideas within queer theory about the queerness of futurity even as they turn to the past of queer/trans literature and history to bolster their senses of possible identities and communities. This often has the effect of positioning contemporary LGBTQ writers as wistful children, caught between what they expect and believe of their communal “elders” despite frequent rejection by and of their actual parents; the genre demands of memoir contribute to this process. As yet mostly unstudied, these memoirs in their self-conscious belonging to a “next generation” – and their authors’ commitments to queer/trans activism and/or archiving – allow me to read them as sites where recently “established” LGBTQ ideas about utopia, intergenerational continuance, and agency are tested, causing both anguish and inspiration.

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