Queering Austen: The Perfect Storm
I came to Jane Austen late in life. Actually, I came to reading the classics a bit later than most writers probably do. In high school in the ’80s, my experiences with The Literary Canon were nearly always shadowed by a sense of disconnect I can now trace not only to the gender, class, and time period of the characters about whom these assorted novels and plays had been written, but also their sexuality. The world reflected within the literature we studied at Kalamazoo Central High School matched the outer world in a very specific way—everyone appeared to be straight, with barely a hint of same-sex attraction.
As I noted in a previous blogpost, queer characters do, of course, exist in Western literature, just as we have always existed in real, non-literary life. But in most cases, you have to read between the lines quite literally in order to uncover the same-sex attraction alluded to by necessarily closeted writers—Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett, for example. While the act of searching out subcultural cues can be an entertaining pastime, at some point coded invisibility gets old.
My second grade teacher helpfully informed my parents that I was queer, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until the grand age of ten. By the time I started college, I was fed up with studying novels and stories that didn’t reflect my experience…
[To read more on how being a women’s studies major and working at a software company prepared me for the business of self-spublishing, please visit The Henderson Files.]