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Intimacy, Shame, and the Closet in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room
Monica B. Pearl

This essay’s close interrogation of James Baldwin’s 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room allows us to see one aspect of how sexual shame functions: it shows how shame exposes anxiety not only about the feminizing force of homosexuality, but about how being the object of the gaze is feminizing—and therefore shameful. It also shows that the paradigm of the closet is not the metaphor of privacy and enclosure on one hand and openness and liberation on the other that it is commonly thought to be, but instead is a site of illusory control over whether one is available to be seen and therefore humiliated by being feminized. Further, the essay reveals the paradox of denial, where one must first know the thing that is at the same time being disavowed or denied. The narrative requirements of fictions such as Giovanni’s Room demonstrate this, as it requires that the narrator both know, in order to narrate, and not know something at the same time.

James Baldwin Review
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Opera’s untenable pleasures
Monica B. Pearl

Monica Pearl discusses the pleasures of opera, exploring through her own long immersion as an aficionado a new poetics through which we might understand the experience of bliss which is peculiar to this art form. Here language is somehow not enough, or not adequate. And yet, of course, we must employ language to talk about this intense experience. Questions of gender and sexuality come into play in this encounter, though not necessarily in the ways other writers have suggested. Richard Strauss’ The Rosenkavalier offers the opportunity for sustained reflection on how the bliss of opera works.

in Writing otherwise