Citation

Is The Toilet a Grave?: Homoeroticism, Homophobia, and the Queer Politics of Black Masculinity

Abstract | Word Stems | Keywords | Association | Citation | Get this Document | Similar Titles



Abstract:

Amiri Baraka’s The Toilet (1962) may not have received as many accolades as some of Baraka’s other works, but this play is instructive in narrating the interplay of race, masculinity, and queerness. Through its interrogation of The Toilet this essay moves the play from its historic closet, opening a door for a late conversation about Baraka’s text in academic work. Furthermore, it engages the implications of artistic work where self-proclaiming “straight” black men speak in the name of “their” race, as a symbolic text for historic and contemporary racial-sexual politics whereby queer presence if negated and demonized. Through a close reading of the text, I uncover how the homosexual is often invoked for the sake of race, yet at the risk of contributing to the legacy of homophobia within black theatrical and cultural practice. I examine how The Toilet constructs black masculinity, whiteness, and homosexuality as contradictory, almost impossible, co-presences within any particular space. While this analysis focuses on how Baraka frames homosexuality, it also recognizes the more generative readings available for this text. While reading The Toilet within its 1962 historical moment reduces its radical potential, this critical interrogation pushes the texts forward into this contemporary moment—broadening the possibility for the text and its meaning. While it is largely understood as a homophobic black nationalist play, I contend that the narrative when re-read today can be understood as having more transgressive potential.

Toward these aims, this essay forges a conversation between Leo Bersani's groundbreaking essay “Is the Rectum a Grave?” and Amiri Baraka’s The Toilet. This may, at first, seem an odd pairing. However, this essay is using the metaphor of the "grave" to assess Baraka’s treatment of homosexuality and the radical potential of the text to challenge historic and contemporary performances of black masculinity. Amiri Baraka's play The Toilet uses the actual toilet as a symbolic container of the tensions created through black queer and non-queer performances of masculinity. Uniquely, this play inadvertently mirrors the relationship of African American Studies to Black Queer Studies—as the tensions between these two disciplinary locations can be found within their commitments to certain gender ideologies. Most importantly, through a close reading I outline the critical lessons we can learn from Baraka's once-controversial play. Central to this essay's discussion is the last moment in the play where the leader of a "gay bashing" returns to embrace the violated subject. This act, I argue, signals not only the potential for the leader's own homoerotic desires, but unveils the effects of masculine bravado in fueling public enactments of homophobia. The Toilet, a play ridden with masculinist and homophobic rhetoric, is as much about the disavowal of homosexuality as it is the desire for tacit black masculine ethical humanism. In other words, it is easy to assess The Toilet as a play about masculinist and homophobic violence; whereas, I argue it is necessary, but less simple, to recognize the anti-homophobic sentiments which speak to the complicated relationship between gender ideals, queerness, and racial respectability.
Convention
Submission, Review, and Scheduling! All Academic Convention can help with all of your abstract management needs and many more. Contact us today for a quote!
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

Association:
Name: The American Studies Association
URL:
http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186397_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

McCune, Jeffrey. "Is The Toilet a Grave?: Homoeroticism, Homophobia, and the Queer Politics of Black Masculinity" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186397_index.html>

APA Citation:

McCune, J. Q. , 2007-10-11 "Is The Toilet a Grave?: Homoeroticism, Homophobia, and the Queer Politics of Black Masculinity" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186397_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Amiri Baraka’s The Toilet (1962) may not have received as many accolades as some of Baraka’s other works, but this play is instructive in narrating the interplay of race, masculinity, and queerness. Through its interrogation of The Toilet this essay moves the play from its historic closet, opening a door for a late conversation about Baraka’s text in academic work. Furthermore, it engages the implications of artistic work where self-proclaiming “straight” black men speak in the name of “their” race, as a symbolic text for historic and contemporary racial-sexual politics whereby queer presence if negated and demonized. Through a close reading of the text, I uncover how the homosexual is often invoked for the sake of race, yet at the risk of contributing to the legacy of homophobia within black theatrical and cultural practice. I examine how The Toilet constructs black masculinity, whiteness, and homosexuality as contradictory, almost impossible, co-presences within any particular space. While this analysis focuses on how Baraka frames homosexuality, it also recognizes the more generative readings available for this text. While reading The Toilet within its 1962 historical moment reduces its radical potential, this critical interrogation pushes the texts forward into this contemporary moment—broadening the possibility for the text and its meaning. While it is largely understood as a homophobic black nationalist play, I contend that the narrative when re-read today can be understood as having more transgressive potential.

Toward these aims, this essay forges a conversation between Leo Bersani's groundbreaking essay “Is the Rectum a Grave?” and Amiri Baraka’s The Toilet. This may, at first, seem an odd pairing. However, this essay is using the metaphor of the "grave" to assess Baraka’s treatment of homosexuality and the radical potential of the text to challenge historic and contemporary performances of black masculinity. Amiri Baraka's play The Toilet uses the actual toilet as a symbolic container of the tensions created through black queer and non-queer performances of masculinity. Uniquely, this play inadvertently mirrors the relationship of African American Studies to Black Queer Studies—as the tensions between these two disciplinary locations can be found within their commitments to certain gender ideologies. Most importantly, through a close reading I outline the critical lessons we can learn from Baraka's once-controversial play. Central to this essay's discussion is the last moment in the play where the leader of a "gay bashing" returns to embrace the violated subject. This act, I argue, signals not only the potential for the leader's own homoerotic desires, but unveils the effects of masculine bravado in fueling public enactments of homophobia. The Toilet, a play ridden with masculinist and homophobic rhetoric, is as much about the disavowal of homosexuality as it is the desire for tacit black masculine ethical humanism. In other words, it is easy to assess The Toilet as a play about masculinist and homophobic violence; whereas, I argue it is necessary, but less simple, to recognize the anti-homophobic sentiments which speak to the complicated relationship between gender ideals, queerness, and racial respectability.

Get this Document:

Find this citation or document at one or all of these locations below. The links below may have the citation or the entire document for free or you may purchase access to the document. Clicking on these links will change the site you're on and empty your shopping cart.

Associated Document Available Access Fee All Academic Inc.


Similar Titles:
Queer Religiosity: The Political Potential of the Black Church

No B-Grades, Fakes, or Variants: Sneaker Culture, Performance, and the Politics of Black Masculine Authenticity

If That's Your Girlfriend, She Wasn't Last Night! Black Men, Queer Women, and Hip-Hop Masculinity

"Masculinity, Migrants, and Ministry": The Politics of Respectability in the Black Baptist Church”


 
All Academic, Inc. is your premier source for research and conference management. Visit our website, www.allacademic.com, to see how we can help you today.