Date of Award
University Scholars Director
Evelyn Waugh, James Baldwin, Jeanette Winterson, Christianity and homosexuality, gender and sexuality, gay studies
This exploration of Christianity, family, homosexuality, and running away in twentieth-century literature is divided into two essays. In the first essay, G. K. Chesterton’s “twitch upon a thread” provides a way of understanding the flight of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Jeanette in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. After they escape their mothers and home communities, Sebastian’s and Jeanette’s searches for a vocation eventually bring them back to where they started, in one sense or another. Sebastian finds his place within the Church, at a monastery; Jeanette travels back to her parents’ house while finding her voice as a prophet outside of her church. Sexuality is shown to be an inextricable part of this process in both books but in different ways.
In the second essay, the motif of wrestling is examined within a close reading of Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, shows how John Grimes, Baldwin’s protagonist, experiences a conversion into the faith of his family and community while knowing that his place in both institutions is tenuous due to his attraction to other men, which is seen by his community as sinful. Go Tell It is situated within two literary traditions of wrestling—one homoerotic, the other holy—showing how the text itself performs the reconciliation its protagonist so desires.
Ernest, Samuel D. J., "Where Do They Go: Christian Faith and Belonging in Gay Literature" (2015). Honors Projects. 27.