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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 Williams's "Desire... 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 homosexuality), they are almost always viewed through a theatrically translucent, if thinly veiled, scrim of allegorical existentialism.1 More often than not, however, this veil is lifted in Williams's short stories, laying bare renderings of miscegenation, violent brutalization, and barely sublimated homosexual desire. Although by applying a sense of "unreal reality" Williams attempts to move his fiction into the realm of atmospheric theatricality, 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 could have inspired the notorious short story "Desire and the Black Masseur," 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, 2010

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University of North Carolina Press
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Copyright © University of North Carolina Press
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1534-1461
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Abstract

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 homosexuality), they are almost always viewed through a theatrically translucent, if thinly veiled, scrim of allegorical existentialism.1 More often than not, however, this veil is lifted in Williams's short stories, laying bare renderings of miscegenation, violent brutalization, and barely sublimated homosexual desire. Although by applying a sense of "unreal reality" Williams attempts to move his fiction into the realm of atmospheric theatricality, 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 could have inspired the notorious short story "Desire and the Black Masseur,"

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 16, 2010

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