Elevate Difference's Reviews > Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory: Essays on Abjection in Literature, Mass Culture, and Film

Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory by Calvin Thomas
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Jan 11, 09

Read in January, 2009

Calvin Thomas’s Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory is a challenging, theory-heavy text on the comparisons of abjection and the abject, and action (such as writing) as a means to shatter patriarchy. The author believes in both the figurative (writing) and the literal (actual human waste) definitions of the abject, and this text builds on Thomas’ previous work, Male Matters: Masculinity, Anxiety, and the Male Body on the Line, whose main points are reviewed in the first essay of this book. Thomas’s theories from Male Matters build such a foundation to Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory that I wish I had read it first in order to gain some clarity.

Thomas’s strongest and most accessible work revolves around the application of his theories to popular culture. One essay, “Is What You Want Something We Can Discuss?,” gives a thorough reading of three Hitchcock films (Vertigo, Spellbound, and Rear Window) as queered texts because they do not contain normative sexual relationships. He also reviews other such works in this context - including David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, literary works by Samuel Beckett, the film Any Given Sunday, artwork by Hieronymus Bosch, and even Janet Jackson’s music video for “Love Will Never Do Without You.” Thomas also offers an interesting theory on how the penetration of the straight male anus (again both figuratively and literally) may provide a site of both feminist and anti-homophobic action.

This book provides an important contribution to queer theory and masculinity studies, though it is not light reading. It's full of very cumbersome Lacanian theory, so it may be a difficult read for those not intimately familiar with his work. Thomas also borrows from Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, and Freud. While I did enjoy reading Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory, this relatively small text (165 pages) took days to finish because I had to keep referring to the author’s notes at the back of the book for clarity.

Review by Kerri Kanelos

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