“Brokeback Mountain” and the American Gay Literary Canon

by Allyson

Course Website


2 thoughts on ““Brokeback Mountain” and the American Gay Literary Canon

  1. The presentation on gay literature in America opens up a question of how canons are defined and how works of literature are categorized. In her presentation, Allyson mentioned the distinction between gay and lesbian literature, but I think the presentation also begs a question which asks why certain works are considered to be in any particular canon in the first place. Beyond whether or not there are distinct lesbian and gay canons, I am left wondering what literature is considered “gay” in the broadest sense of the term. There are examples of gay writers who do not necessarily write what is intended to be “gay literature,” such as Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). Are these novels considered a part of the gay literature canon based on the sexuality of the respective authors? Or is the author irrelevant and what is of most importance is the content of the story? This leads me to another series of questions, which are what sort of themes define gay literature? Or, what makes gay literature unique from the bodies of work in the general American canon? Is a character who defines him or herself as gay enough to qualify a work for the gay canon, or must the work deal with themes unique to those who deal with homosexuality, and if so, what are those themes? I believe these are questions that can be asked upon any sub-canon within the American canon and lead one to wonder whether the definitions of canon and the lines drawn between one canon and another are not arbitrary to some degree. Ultimately, what is considered by one person to be a part of the gay literature canon will be considered by another not to be. Still another will find further distinctions within the gay literature canon itself and divide it further. Allyson’s presentation is a good jumping off point for considering just how canons are formed and who gets to define them.

    Bailey Thompson

  2. I enjoy that Brokeback Mountain departs from a lot of gay literature, in that it doesn’t entirely revolve around the sex itself. I think gay literature can often encourage a common stereotype whereby gay people are seen as sexually deviant, or hyper-sexual. I think the gay canon should be open to any and all writers (gay or straight) who can write about the joys/pains of being gay in an insightful manner. Brokeback Mountain successfully counters the idea that if a man is gay, he subsequently loses his masculinity, by showing the complexities of gay love (the same complexities involved in heterosexual love) between two cowboys.

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