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This chapter queries the notion of “the queer essay” and the idea of the essay as an intrinsically queer form. The author considers a particular tradition of essays in which “queer literary critics writ[e] about famous queer literary critics,” with emphasis on Terry Castle’s memoir of Susan Sontag, focusing on the desire for the writer to “come out” in an essay, a form by its very nature not interested in the full, disclosive out.
What does it mean to commit? And why are men stereotypically afraid to do it? At some point in the last, say, sixty years, commitment-phobia displaced sexual neurosis as the acceptable euphemism through which men could talk about (or at least be talked about as though they talked about) the obsessive fear of castration that, from Ovid to Freud, took as its sign the phallophagic vagina. Thus, in one of the key contemporary representations of male commitment-phobia, the relationship between Chandler and Janice on Friends, our sympathetic horror derives not from Chandler's having been encompassed by Janice's body but by her postcoital laugh. To surrender, by surrendering to the feminizing procedure of commitment, one's contempt for women; to put oneself in the position where one had no choice but to put up with such a laugh—worse, perhaps, to feel compelled to excuse such a laugh among one's friends: such would be the anxious hypothesis of a heterosexual body magnetized toward feminization, but just as strongly defended from it.
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