Date of Award


Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Leslie Bickford

Committee Member

Casey Cothran

Committee Member

Dustin Hoffman


Queer theory, Toni Morrison, Herman Melville, Allen Ginsberg, Critical race theory, American literature


In American LGBTQ+ communities, questions continually arise about what it means to live in a post-gay marriage world. Is there still a need for a division between LGBTQ+ and heteronormative spaces, such as nightclubs or parades? What purpose does the ideological signification of a queer identity serve if, ostensibly, queer communities are now equal with their heteronormative counterparts? Rather than accepting the homonormative, post-gay marriage premise that underlies frequent, current representations of “queerness” in terms of white, male, gay bodies, I plan to explore the convergence of aesthetics and politics as a method of freeing queer theory from some of its temporal binds and fears of anachronism and presentism. In doing so, I hope to illustrate how the formation of a future for queer theory and queer identity must also address the violent, racist background of identity in America, and specifically, queer theorists must address how literature served to codify the queercoding of racialized spaces that became the underlying foundation of the confining white closet from which the majority of queer theory has emerged. I will return to the American literary past and re-interpret Herman Melville, Allen Ginsberg, and Toni Morrison in new ways that demonstrate how the intersections of language, queer identity, and space both uphold and dismantle patriarchal and racist hierarchies.