The first wife of oceanographer William Beebe, Niles also wrote under the name of Mary Blair Beebe. She lived among indigenous peoples in Mexico, South America, and Southeast Asia. In 1923 she published Casual Wanderings in Ecuador. Colombia: Land of Miracles followed in 1924, and Peruvian Pageant in 1937. In these books she linked contemporary culture with the past by exploring history, traditions, and legends. She visited the notorious Devil's Island in 1926 and recorded the life of a prisoner there (René Belbenoit) in her 1928 best selling biography: Condemned to Devil's Island. The international sensation caused by this book led to prison reforms. Her 1931 book, Strange Brother, was a gay-themed novel (her only work in that genre) set in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1944 Blair Niles was awarded the Gold medal of the Society of Woman Geographers.
In Strange Brother (1931), author Blair Niles provided her readers with an extensive list of books to read by having her protagonist discover Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Carpenter's Love's Coming of Age, Plato's Symposium, Ellis's Psychology of Sex volumes, and Auguste Forel's The Sexual Question, among other books. She also identified Caesar, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and James I of England, along with numerous other historical figures, as homosexual. "You find them all the way back," one character explained, "among the artists and intellectuals of their time... Kings and Emperors [are] in the list, too." The regular appearance of such comments in the novels of the 1930s suggests both the currency of such ideas among gay intellectuals and their allies and their determination to disseminate them among gay readers. --Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey
Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance (Blacks in the Diaspora) by A.B. Christa Schwarz
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Indiana University Press (July 18, 2003)
Amazon: Gay Voices of the Harlem Renaissance
"Heretofore scholars have not been willing—perhaps, even been unable for many reasons both academic and personal—to identify much of the Harlem Renaissance work as same-sex oriented.... An important book." —Jim Elledge
This groundbreaking study explores the Harlem Renaissance as a literary phenomenon fundamentally shaped by same-sex-interested men. Christa Schwarz focuses on Countée Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Richard Bruce Nugent and explores these writers' sexually dissident or gay literary voices. The portrayals of men-loving men in these writers' works vary significantly. Schwarz locates in the poetry of Cullen, Hughes, and McKay the employment of contemporary gay code words, deriving from the Greek discourse of homosexuality and from Walt Whitman. By contrast, Nugent—the only "out" gay Harlem Renaissance artist—portrayed men-loving men without reference to racial concepts or Whitmanesque codes. Schwarz argues for contemporary readings attuned to the complex relation between race, gender, and sexual orientation in Harlem Renaissance writing.
Willa Cather and Others (Series Q) by Jonathan Goldberg
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (February 13, 2001)
Amazon: Willa Cather and Others
After many years as one of the premier scholars of English Renaissance literature, Jonathan Goldberg turns his attention to the work of American novelist Willa Cather. With a focus on Cather’s artistic principle of “the thing not named,” Willa Cather and Others illuminates the contradictions and complexities inherent in notions of identity and shows how her fiction transforms the very categories—regarding gender, sexuality, race, and class—around which most recent Cather scholarship has focused.
The “others” referred to in the title are women, for the most part Cather’s contemporaries, whose artistic projects allow for points of comparison with Cather. They include the Wagnerian diva Olive Fremstad, renowned for her category-defying voice; Blair Niles, an ethnographer and novelist of jazz-age Harlem and the prisons of New Guinea; Laura Gilpin, photographer of the American Southwest; and Pat Barker, whose Regeneration trilogy places World War I writers—and questions of sexuality and gender—at its center. In the process of studying these women and their work, Goldberg forms innovative new insights into a wide range of Cather’s celebrated works, from O Pioneers! and My Ántonia to her later books The Song of the Lark, One of Ours, The Professor’s House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Sapphira and the Slave Girl.
By applying his unique talent to the study of Cather’s literary genius, Jonathan Goldberg makes a significant and new contribution to the study of American literature and queer studies.
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