The number of individuals from Europe and the Americas who chose, or
were forced, to leave their homelands for social and political reasons
exploded in the twentieth century. In a
number of cases, the individuals’ sexualities troubled the dominant
culture. Homophobia and heteronormativity encumbered some of these
queer individuals’ connections with their homes and either exacerbated
an existing rift or caused an irreparable break with their families,
communities, and countries.
My study begins at that juncture,
the intersection of queer sexuality and the experience of exile.
Building upon Edward Said’s ruminations, this project suggests that
twentieth-century queerness has often coincided with exile.
Whether at the level of the family or the state, rifts and breaks
between the lesbian or gay individual and the home place demonstrate
that a type of exile is sometimes associated with accepting one’s queer
The experience of exile has a
monumental impact on the individual, for it is injurious and wounds the
psyche of its survivors. Rather quickly, however, this project
shifts its focus and suggests that from such pain something positive
arises. Said notes that being exiled complicates and expands the
perception of the survivor. This comes, he explains, from seeing
how life is lived from more than one vantage point. A
double-vision—or, contrapuntal vision—results from exile. For the
four queer writers at the center of this
project, exile sharpened and refined their literary output.
Four specific case studies of the
works and lives of Christopher Isherwood, Klaus Mann, James Baldwin, and
Arturo Islas comprise the body of this dissertation. These case
studies demonstrate the commonalities and variations of exile among the
four writers and in relation to Said’s conceptualization.
Additionally, these chapters investigate what America meant for each of
these exiled writers. “The Homo-Exilic Experience” charts the
trans-Atlantic movements, as well as migrations within the United
States, of Islas, Baldwin, Mann, and Isherwood. Their relocations,
it is argued, were but physical manifestations of their pre-existing
alienation, and an expanded perspective, resulting from their exilic
experiences, sharpened and enhanced their art.