One Body Containing Many in “Song of Myself” and “Angels in America

In Angels in America by Tony Kushner and Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, there is a similar theme of one person or being embodying many people. Both writings use the symbol of the body to represent the personification of many people in that one body. In Angels in America, the Angel, when speaking to Prior, the Angel is described as having eight vaginas and “a Bouquet of Phallī” (Kushner 165). In Song of Myself, Whitman states, “I contain multitudes” (Whitman 53). Both statements represent one person being many at once.

For Whitman, it is less his own personal body that is many different people but the body of the poem that contains him as many different people. This connects to the actual body of the Angel, having many different sexual organs. In both pieces of writing, one person is representative of many people within their bodies. They also represent many different lived experiences within one person. The Angel’s connection to Prior places him as the person who represents the many people who are struggling with AIDS at the time when the play takes place. Whitman embodies people of all races and genders within his poem, moving around between all of them.

However, as we discussed in class, there is a problem with having one person embodying many people and their experiences but is that true for both of these writings? It is somewhat problematic that Whitman, a white man, talks about being a Black slave and explaining that he understands the slave’s suffering (Whitman 33-34). A white man, who most likely never had to experience the brutality that a slave has had to endure, should not be speaking as though he knows and understands what it is like to be a slave. 

As for Prior and the Angel, containing many people in the body of the Angel and the experiences of many people in Prior may be slightly less problematic than the way Whitman does so in his writing. Prior can embody many people’s experiences because he is really only embodying the experiences of those who have AIDS. He can give a voice and a body to show the suffering that so many people like him have to go through. Whitman takes on the bodies of those he has no connection to, while Prior takes on bodies that he does connect to. This difference makes Prior’s embodiment less problematic than Whitman’s.

What is an Inaccurate Representation of Male Homosexuality?

After reading Brokeback Mountain, I was interested in how the book portrays male homosexuality. I’m interested in the portrayal of male homosexuality in the book and the film connected to some recent articles about The Golden Globes that took place this past Sunday night. 

When The Golden Globes nominations were announced, there was quite a bit of backlash against James Corden’s nomination for his role in the film The Prom. For those who haven’t seen The Prom, Corden plays a gay Broadway actor who goes to a small town with some other Broadway performers to help a high school girl go to prom with her girlfriend. The backlash surrounding Corden’s nomination had to do with the fact that he is a straight man playing a gay man and, therefore, many argued, played his gay character in an “‘offensive'” and “‘stereotypical'” way (Zac Ntim, Insider Magazine). 

I have several questions relating to this criticism. Yes, Corden does play his character in a flamboyant way that calls upon inaccurate stereotypes of gay men, and it probably would have been better if the part had been played by someone who identifies as gay. However, many people who are critical of Corden’s performance fail to mention that the director, Ryan Murphy, is a gay identifying man. It seems as though Murphy’s role as the director of Corden’s performance should place some of the criticism on Murphy or should make people think about what it really means to portray a gay man in a film. 

Looping back to Brokeback Mountain, we talked a bit in class about the connection between “masculinity” and how it relates to the images of cowboys. A cowboy in America is someone thought to be strong and weather-beaten. These are stereotypical characteristics linked to the idea of “masculinity.” Proulx does not portray Jack and Ennis as flamboyantly gay men. Instead, they appear to embody those stereotypical “masculine” traits that one might not associate with homosexuality. These same traits seem to be echoed in the bits of the film I’ve seen. 

The film was well-received when it first came out in 2005. I wonder if it was easier for audiences to swallow because Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are straight men and because they didn’t act flamboyant like James Corden. I would think that even though these films are separated by many years now that people would have been just as upset that two straight men were playing two gay men. However, since the portrayals are so different, one considered more “masculine” than the other, maybe viewers didn’t see anything wrong with Ledger and Gyllenhaal’s performances because they don’t act “un-masculine.” 

As you can see, I don’t really have any answers to my questions, but I do think it’s essential to think about what should be considered the “correct” way to portray male homosexuality in books and films. It seems as though there should not be one right way, other than to have someone who identifies as whatever one is trying to portray, play that part.

Miscommunication in The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke

The miscommunication is seen in many different ways in The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke by Judy Grahn, but I think the most significant moment of this miscommunication between Edward and Dr. Knox is seen on page 30.

First, I should explain what I mean by miscommunication in this context. Throughout this short piece of writing, it is evident that Edward and Dr. Knox are not on the same page in any respect during this meeting. Dr. Knox continually does not listen to Edward when she tries to explain how she feels or what she believes her identity to be. It should be stressed that the miscommunication is not the fault of Edward but Dr. Knox in this context because it is clear that he could really care less about how Edward feels, as seen at the end of the story when he draws a picture of his bank. He is only really in this for the money. 

The miscommunication in this piece stems from the idea that Dr. Knox isn’t listening to Edward even though she explains her worries and problems. This unwillingness to listen to Edward connects to the larger concept of people in the LGBTQ community in the past and now, unfortunately not always being heard, specifically by the medical community, even when they are expressing the issues they are having while trying to embody who they believe they authentically are. 

Grahn uses many different words and examples in this story to emphasize the miscommunication between Edward and Dr. Knox. However, I would argue that on page 30, when Edward starts to say words that seemingly don’t connect to what Dr. Knox is saying, it emphasizes this conflict significantly. 

Dr. Knox states, “‘This oral eroticism of yours is defiantly rooted in Penis Envy, which showed when you deliberately castrated your date by publicly embarrassing him.'” 

Edward responds by moaning, “‘But strawberries. But lemon cream pie.'”

This same pattern continues with Dr. Knox accusing Edward and Edward responding with random words. By choosing these seemingly random words that don’t really make sense, Grahn indicates that what Edward is saying to try and defend herself against these allegations just doesn’t make any sense to Dr. Knox because he isn’t listening to her. No matter what she says, even if it made sense in this context, he still wouldn’t listen to her. Grahn appears to be indicating that even if she says random words, Dr. Knox will always not listen to her or really try to help her. 

This whole interaction on page 30 circles back to the idea of LGBTQ people not being listened to or understood by the medical community. Grahn uses this story to indicate the frustration and humiliation that occurs for many people in the LGBTQ community when dealing with medical professionals. By illuminating this miscommunication in the story, Grahn is calling out the medical community for all of the things they have done to hurt the LGBTQ community. She does it funnily and heartbreakingly at the same time, almost as though to indicate just how ridiculous it is that she has to be writing this kind of story in the first place.

Examining the Role of Myth and Story in a Passage of “Diving into the Wreck”

Passage: the thing I came for:/the wreck and not the story of the wreck/the thing itself and not the myth

I think this passage is about looking for something concrete rather than superficial or not physical. The reason that I believe this is because first, Rich talks about something that she “came for,” so she was looking for something in the wreck. The thing that she is looking for is not the story or the myth of the wreck. Both myth and story are things that one cannot physically see or touch and can therefore not be taken. A myth or a story can also get twisted and changed over time, so someone may never know the original form it was unless they were the person who first told the myth or the story. It is unclear what “the thing itself” is that she has come looking for, but she is looking for something real, as she states. The wreck is real compared to the story of the wreck because it is something she can see and touch. In the second two lines she first states the thing that is real and then the thing that is not. I think this indicates that she is not being fooled by the myth and the story. It appears the myth and the story are placed there to distract the person from looking for the thing that is real, and she is not buying into that distraction. With all of this in mind, I believe what she is looking for is the people of the LGBTQ community. She is not looking at the stories about them because those can be twisted and changed. She is looking for the physical thing that defines the LGBTQ community. Also, since she is looking for the wreck, this means she could be looking for the things that are painful to see. The hardships the community has gone through, not the myths and stories that have been warped by history.