Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Wayne Koestenbaum

Committee Members

Norman Kelvin

Scott Westrem

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


This thesis consists of six chapters and a frontispiece/CD recording of a song cycle, Blue Orpheus: Hymns and Lullabies, written and performed by the author. This arrangement responds to currents within queer theory, which view questions concerning its historical and philosophical origins as diversions from its ability to determine present conditions, by reframing these "presentist" (and its close relative, "performative") orientations in terms of "place" and the corresponding laws and freedoms that originate from its cultivation—in politics, the art of memory, and systems theory and design. Generally speaking, to each concept of place I devote two chapters.

Chapter one develops the concept of "virtual place" deriving from systems theory and design to establish this text and its frontispiece—this "libretto" and its "music"—as an "opera" in six acts, i.e. chapters, with a large cast of philosophers, friends, authors etc.

The next two chapters explore the politics of place in terms of conceptions of the vernacular. In chapter two I discuss the linguistic geography and religiosity of Gertrude Stein's quotation of Paul's letter to the Galatians with the title of her Susan B. Anthony opera, The Mother of Us All. In chapter three I discuss the vernacular in terms of institutions; most particularly, the Erie Canal, the kinetoscope, and, above all, Henry James's New York Edition.

Chapters four and five are grounded on the idea that a "premodern" art of memory (organized by topoi—places) operates beneath, and gives meaning to, "modern" forms and events. Chapter four explores a correspondence between frontispieces, those of Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Mr. W.H. and James's New York Edition. Chapter five discusses how a diverse set of problems, including James's relation to Paul Joukowsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche's relation to Richard Wagner, may be "placed" according to the art of memory we know as music notation.

Finally, in chapter six I return to systems theory and design as a foundation for uniting the "places" disclosed in the forgoing chapters. These places, I conclude, return us to the philosophical and historical origins of queer theory.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

Note: BLUE ORPHEUS: HYMNS & LULLABIES FRONTISPIECE/CD (inside front and back covers) have not been digitized and are only available in the bound copy at the Mina Rees Library, CUNY Graduate Center.