Queer comedy: Laughter and stigma: fear and rebellion in modern and contemporary drama
Chase, Anthony J.W.
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The dissertation discusses comedy from the perspective of queer theory, or the study of stigmatized subjectivity. Each of the five chapters examines the idea of comedy using a different literary moment and in so doing, follows the evolution of the queer in comic theater through dominant discourse in which it is hidden; to negotiative discourse, in which it the queer asserts its claim to the normal; to radical discourse, in which the unbridled queer insists upon its integrity despite opposition. In Chapter One, the Decadent Movement of the late 19 th century is discussed in terms of its comic spirit and normative efforts to quell that spirit. Chapter Two examines Oscar Wilde and his most celebrated comic text, The Importance of Being Earnest , as an exercise in pursuing queer desire in a form that appears to be entirely superficial. Chapter Three discuss the career of Mae West as an effort to redefine the normal in Depression era America. Chapter Four explores West's most successful script, She Done Him Wrong . The final chapter traces the shift from theater that explores the lives of homosexuals in disguised or sublimated ways to theater that examines and celebrates those lives overtly, while taking account of the critical reaction to that shift. The overall gesture of the document is to link the comic impulse to the desire of the queer subject to claim its place as normal.