“Warm blood and live semen and rich marrow and wholesome flesh!”: A Queer Ecological Reading of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man

Jill E Anderson

Abstract


In Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, George, the novel’s main character, acts a barometer for the ecological destruction enacted by the “breeders”—the families and their children—who surround him. While mourning the sudden death of his longtime partner, George observes the suburban heterosexual couples and their offspring as well as the rampant growth and construction and the general environmental destruction occurring in California at the time. While the novel is traditionally read as a text that empowers and normalizes a gay man in a long-term relationship, I argue that these critics are ignoring the environmental signs spread throughout the novel. George notices the urban and suburban sprawl occurring in California, and he realizes that the sprawl (and humans) will die and “the desert, which is the natural condition of this country, will return” (A Single Man 111). Isherwood specifically uses his gay character to track the inevitable apocalypse that will be brought on by breeding and reverses the paradigm of queerness as unnatural by making reproduction unnatural and inherently apocalyptic. Besides this, George constructs spaces to support his queerness as well as the preservation of natural spaces. And instead of imposing new binaries in the narrative, Isherwood includes descriptions of touch and play, primarily that between George and his student Kenny, as a means of dissolving boundaries and opening upon the possibility of naturalized same-sex eroticism.

Keywords


queer ecocriticism; A Single Man; Christopher Isherwood

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549