Added: September 5, 2015 – Last updated: November 5, 2016


Author: Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman

Title: Against the Closet

Subtitle: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race

Place: Durham, NC

Publisher: Duke University Press

Year: 2012

Pages: 216pp.

ISBN-13: 9780822352242 (cloth) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780822352419 (pbk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 19th Century, 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Offenders: Fathers, Slave Masters; Representations: Literary Texts / Octavia Butler, William Faulkner, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Sapphire; Types: Incestual Rape, Interracial Rape, Same-Sex Rape, Slave Rape; Victims: Daughters, Men, Slaves


Link: Google Books (Limited Preview)


Author: Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis University


  Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  Introduction. Against the Closet
Racial Identity and the Bodily Basis/Biases of Sexual Identity (p. 1)
    Sexuality and Race (p. 7)
    Gender and Race (p. 15)
    The Steps Ahead (p. 20)
  1. "The Strangest Freaks of Despotism"
Queer Sexuality in Antebellum African American Slave Narratives (p. 25)
    The Trope of Silence (p. 28)
    U.S. Slavery and the History of Sexuality (p. 33)
    Race and Rape (p. 38)
    Luke (p. 41)
  2. Iconographies of Gang Rape
Or, Black Enfranchisement, White Disavowel, and the (Homo)erotics of Lynching (p. 51)
    Violent Intimacies (p. 54)
    Willing Whiteness (p. 60)
    Rape and Racial Terror (p. 68)
    Recovering Her, Refiguring Him (p. 76)
  3. Desire and Treason in Mid-Twentieth-Century Political
Protest Fiction (p. 82)
    Straddling the Border (p. 86)
    Black Masculinity and the Ruse of Redemption (p. 95)
    Coming Home (p. 108)
  4. Recovering the Little Black Girl
Incest and Black American Textuality (p. 114)
    In Awful Slavery (p. 118)
    Misshapen Maneuvers (p. 126)
    Welfare Reform and Alternatives Ethics (p. 132)
    The Way Forward (p. 143)
  Conclusion. In Memorium
Michael Jackson, 1958–2009 (p. 151)
  Notes (p. 157)
  Works Cited (p. 181)
  Index (p. 193)


»In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.« (Source: Duke University Press)


Ducille, Ann. »Unspeakable Things Written .« Novel: A Forum on Fiction 47(3) (2014): 461-464. – Full Text: Duke University Press (Restricted Access)

Griffiths, Timothy M. Callaloo 37(3) (Summer 2014): 748-750. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Holland, Sharon P. »The Practice of Discipline; Disciplinary Practices.« American Literary History 26(4) (Winter 2014): 804-812. – Full Text: Oxford University Press (Restricted Access)

Li, Stephanie. MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 61(1) (Spring 2015): 186-189. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Mann, Regis. Journal of American Studies 47(3) (August 2013): 865-866. – Full Text: Cambridge University Press (Restricted Access)

Owens, Emily A. Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International 2(2) (2013): 230-232. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1865–1918), History of the United States (1918–45) | Literature: American literature | 19th-century American writers: Harriet Jacobs, Pauline Hopkins | 20th-century American writers: Octavia_Butler; William Faulkner / Light in August; Gayl Jones; Toni Morrison; Sapphire