Aboutness and Meaning: How a Paradigm of Subject Analysis Can Illuminate Queer Theory in Literary Studies

Authors

  • Grant Campbell University of Western Ontario

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.29173/cais9

Abstract

This paper uses the paradigms of subject analysis in information studies to study the treatment of homosexuality in academic literary criticism. Both subject analysis and contemporary gay and lesbian culture are concerned with the distinction between “aboutness,” defined as intrinsic intellectual content, and “meaning,” defined as the various uses to which a user might put that content. An examination of the treatment of homosexuality in various critical analyses of Melville’s Billy Budd suggests that literary critics are divided on whether homosexuality is part of the story’s content, or merely part of an interpretive strategy. Furthermore, trends in literary theory have questioned the possibility that we can find any innate “aboutness” in any literary work. Nonetheless, gay-positive readings of literature, particularly works of queer theorists like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, are re-enacting the activities of subject analysis in their works: placing literary works within broader contexts of literary, social and intellectual relationships. Furthermore, Sedgwick’s binarism between homosexuality as an explicit and visible cultural minority and homosexuality which pervades culture as a whole recreates the aboutness/meaning dichotomy of subject analysis. The paper concludes that literary theory and subject analysis, while very different, exist on a continuum with each other, and that each can benefit from the insights of the other.

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Published

2013-10-14

How to Cite

Campbell, G. (2013). Aboutness and Meaning: How a Paradigm of Subject Analysis Can Illuminate Queer Theory in Literary Studies. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of CAIS / Actes Du congrès Annuel De l’ACSI. https://doi.org/10.29173/cais9

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Section

Articles