Paddle faster I hear techno music: mapping the prehomosexual and the posthomosexual in the souths of James Dickey and Samuel R. Delany
This thesis argues that James Dickey’s Deliverance, and Samuel R. Delany’s Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders are works of speculative Southern fiction by reading them through David Halperin’s “How to do the History of Male Homosexuality” and his notion of prehomosexual discourses. It begins by using Clayton Bigsby as a model to show the fundamental work of speculative fiction to unravel real, historical ideologies. To describe this work, I read the skit with Scott Romine’s The Real South and Slavoj Zizek’s The Sublime Object of Ideology. From there I turn to Deliverance, a novel that has been sorely overlooked by Southern literature scholars, due to the film adaptation taking a more prominent place in American pop culture. My analysis of Deliverance attempts to push back against that tendency by reading the novel through Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization in order to demonstrate that the novel is concerned with characters who travel to the Deep South to escape from modernity, only to be met by a violent resurgence of prehomosexual discourses. I then pair Deliverance with Through the Valley by arguing that the latter reconfigures the prehomosexual into what I call the posthomosexual by presenting a queer space in rural Georgia which retains the differentiating language of the prehomosexual. This posthomosexual space employs that language to generate unbridled, and problematic, utopian pleasure. I also discuss how labor is presented as another avenue towards pleasure by reading the text through Marcuse’s notion of labor without toil. I then conclude this section by complicating Delany’s utopian anxieties by analyzing the incestual relationships and racial language in the novel and discussing the difference between a subject who comes down to a utopia versus a subject who is born into it.