Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
David L. Clark
A now significant body of biographical and autobiographical narratives about HIV and AIDS reminds us that the pandemic can be represented and reconsidered in ways that are significantly different from how the crisis has hitherto often been imagined. The complex ways in which the pandemic is caught up in the question of race is one of the many pressing questions raised by AIDS narratives, and it is to that question that my thesis responds. Particularly useful to my argument will be contemporary theoretical articulations of the AIDS "subject" that treat the "body" not only as the embodied site of viral loads and parasitic infections but also as the discursive location of layered inscriptions that fully reflect anxieties about sexuality, race, class, and health.
I intend to explore the diverse ways in which race and sexuality articulate each other within AIDS discourses by examining two important texts that explore the lives of AIDS subjects in powerfully racially inflected terms: Jamaica Kincaid's autobiographical narrative about the life and AIDS death of her sibling, My Brother, and Gary Fisher's collection ofjournal entries, short stories, and poems entitled Gary in Your Pocket. Each text raises intriguing and often troubling questions about the AIDS crisis in cultures that are already trapped in unresolved and perhaps unresolvable crises of race. Kincaid's mother, in effect, says it all when she observes that "the disease has made [her son] so black" (Kincaid, 9). What post-colonial and racial conditions must be in place for an Antiguan mother to render her son as the diseased man of colour, where race and illness are mutually substitutable figures for abjection? Gary in Your Pocket, written by Fisher but edited and brought to publication by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick after his death, becomes, in part, a work of endless mourning. What kind of political and ethical work does Sedgwick seem to want Fisher's writing to bear? By viewing the AIDS-body in a specific cultural and historical context, it may be possible to gain clearer insight into the ways in which the body becomes both a surface to be inscribed or written on, as well as a site of the production of ideologies and discourses.
Nalkur, Sonal, "Black Bodies, Queer Pleasures: Race and Sexuality in AIDS Narratives" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5887.
McMaster University Library