See the Body: Performance in City of Night
My research project’s question is how the visual devices within literary texts subvert notions of marginality. This question is part of a thesis project in which I look at three Chicano authors (two of which are also queer): City of Night by John Rechy, a novel; Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral, a poetry book; and Letters to the Poet from his Brother by Maceo Montoya, a text that merges both painting and lyrical essays. However, for the purposes of this grant, my focus is on the novel entitled City of Night by John Rechy. City of Night was published in 1963 and although it was widely received by homophobic literary critics, it was popular among audiences and charted the New York Times best-seller list. Scholars have predominantly focused on the representation of the depicted gay hustling culture and the autobiographical influences of John Rechy’s novel, while virtually ignore the experimental formal structure. By experimental form, I’m referring to the capitalization of all the letter cases for specific words, the use of ellipses to elide sexual scenes, the spatial formatting of dialogue, the randomize portmanteau, and omitting of apostrophes. I describe these formal devices as visual features that exhibit how literature can be performed and embodied in order to resist or disrupt textual forms of “marginal” representation.