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What's Eating Anthony Burns? Dismembering the Bodies That Matter in Tennessee Williams's "Desire and the Black Masseur"

What's Eating Anthony Burns? Dismembering the Bodies That Matter in Tennessee... What’s Eating Anthony Burns? Dismembering the Bodies That Matter in Tennessee Williams’s “Desire and the Black Masseur” By Nathan Tipton Tennessee Williams may be forgiven if his short fiction never approached the phenomenal success of his dramatic works. While his plays explore subjects that were, during the postwar period, considered unseemly (such as rape, psychosis, or incest) or dangerous (such as homo- sexuality), they are almost always viewed through a theatrically translu- cent, if thinly veiled, scrim of allegorical existentialism. More often than not, however, this veil is lifted in Williams’s short stories, laying bare ren- derings of miscegenation, violent brutalization, and barely sublimated homosexual desire. Although by applying a sense of “unreal reality” Wil- liams attempts to move his c fi tion into the realm of atmospheric theatri- cality, the stories nevertheless retain too much of a “hyper- real” quality that, paradoxically, prevents any lasting imposition of fantasy. As Dennis Vannatta notes, Williams was “the most autobiographical of writers,” full of “contradictions and clashing passions” (4), and he easily transmutes these reality- based passions into his short stories, concatenating them together with bursts of sound and fury, signifying everything. That said, it is difficult to imagine what passion http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

What's Eating Anthony Burns? Dismembering the Bodies That Matter in Tennessee Williams's "Desire and the Black Masseur"

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 43 (1) – Mar 16, 2011

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

What’s Eating Anthony Burns? Dismembering the Bodies That Matter in Tennessee Williams’s “Desire and the Black Masseur” By Nathan Tipton Tennessee Williams may be forgiven if his short fiction never approached the phenomenal success of his dramatic works. While his plays explore subjects that were, during the postwar period, considered unseemly (such as rape, psychosis, or incest) or dangerous (such as homo- sexuality), they are almost always viewed through a theatrically translu- cent, if thinly veiled, scrim of allegorical existentialism. More often than not, however, this veil is lifted in Williams’s short stories, laying bare ren- derings of miscegenation, violent brutalization, and barely sublimated homosexual desire. Although by applying a sense of “unreal reality” Wil- liams attempts to move his c fi tion into the realm of atmospheric theatri- cality, the stories nevertheless retain too much of a “hyper- real” quality that, paradoxically, prevents any lasting imposition of fantasy. As Dennis Vannatta notes, Williams was “the most autobiographical of writers,” full of “contradictions and clashing passions” (4), and he easily transmutes these reality- based passions into his short stories, concatenating them together with bursts of sound and fury, signifying everything. That said, it is difficult to imagine what passion

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 16, 2011

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