AIDS in French Culture: Social Ills, Literary Cures by David Caron

By David Caron

The deluge of metaphors prompted in 1981 in France by means of the 1st public reviews of what could grow to be the AIDS epidemic unfold with a ways larger velocity and potency than the virus itself. to appreciate why it took France see you later to react to the AIDS trouble, AIDS in French Culture analyzes the intersections of 3 discourses—the literary, the clinical, and the political—and strains the starting place of French attitudes approximately AIDS again to nineteenth-century anxieties approximately nationhood, masculinity, and sexuality.

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Male homosexuality, for instance, was thought to come in a wide array Degeneracy and Inversion S 23 of levels, degrees, and intermediate stages within a process of negative development. The distinction is crucial, for the figure of the male homosexual in the rhetoric that medicalized him did not yet represent a separate and autonomous Other, but rather Otherness as becoming. The late-nineteenth-century male homosexual, as I will attempt to show, constituted the locus where two competing paradigms intersected.

To write down scrupulously the feelings and actions of these human beings. I simply did on two living bodies the analytical work that surgeons do on corpses. [[M]on but a été un but scientifique avant tout. . Qu’on lise le roman avec soin, on verra que chaque chapitre est l’étude d’un cas curieux de physiologie. En un mot, je n’ai eu qu’un désir: . . noter scrupuleusement les sensations et les actes de ces êtres. J’ai simplement fait sur deux corps vivants le travail analytique que les chirurgiens font sur les cadavres.

La débâcle articulates itself along the underlying pathological figure of the “homosexual” and, in that respect, the novel exemplifies universalist ideals. Yet Zola does not and cannot adhere unequivocally to his ideological framework. Ultimately, the text confers a large degree of narrative au31 32 S Gender Indecision and Cultural Anxiety thority upon a degenerate character, destabilizing both the scientific discourse supposed to authenticate the literary discourse and the healthy/unhealthy dichotomy in which such a discourse attempts to ground and naturalize its hegemonic claims.

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