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Queering Philip Roth - research shines new light on the work of famous author – University of Reading

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Queering Philip Roth - research shines new light on the work of famous author

Release Date 15 March 2013

New research from the University's Reading's Dr David Brauner is for the first time raising the question of homoerotic undertones in Philip Roth novels.

Dr Brauner, one of the world's leading authorities on Philip Roth, is set to open a new chapter on the works of the American author whose writing is renowned for its overtly masculine view, and explicit treatment of, sex.

Philip Roth is widely regarded as the greatest living author. The prolific writer, whose works include Portnoy's Complaint, The Human Stain and American Pastoral (a film adaptation of which is due to be released later this year), celebrates his 80th birthday on 19 March. Dr Brauner will highlight his findings through giving a key talk at the Roth@80 Conference to be held in Newark, America over March 18-19. Philip Roth will be attending the event.

Dr Brauner, from the University of Reading's Department of English, said: "I've been reading and writing on Roth now for over twenty years and I still keep finding new things in his work. My new research began when I was struck,  re-reading his 'American Trilogy', by the way in which the physical qualities of the heroes of these novels are described in ways that, in a different writer, would look frankly homoerotic. I began to ask myself whether Roth's reputation as a macho, even sexist, author had blinded us to the presence of a more complex sexuality in his work and sure enough I have traced a persistent strain of what we might call queer discourse running through his work."

Just as other authors conventionally regarded as aggressively heterosexual, such as Ernest Hemingway, have in recent years been re-read through the lens of Queer Theory, Dr Brauner expressed the "hope that my findings will encourage fans of Roth and scholars around the world to re-examine his books and provoke debate about the ways in which Roth represents sexuality in his work."

Philip Roth is rarely out of the news. In 2011, Carmen Calill resigned in protest from the committee that awarded Roth the Man Booker International Prize, and in an interview last year Roth announced his retirement - both stories prompting a flurry of debate on the internet. Roth is also perennially tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature but continues, controversially, to be overlooked for the award - the only major prize to elude him.

Dr Brauner added: "If Roth really has written his last book, then that is a great shame, because he's one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century and, on the evidence of his last novel, Nemesis, has clearly still got a lot to offer. But I'm not convinced that he really has given up writing. He has a history of manipulating the media and, given his famously disciplined regimen (writing 365 days a year) and his consistently prolific output over so many years, I find it difficult to believe he can stop just like that.

"His failure to win the Nobel Prize for Literature is scandalous and almost certainly has more to do with politics (no American author has won the award since Toni Morrison in 1993) and with the uncompromisingly combative nature of his work than its undoubted literary qualities."

Dr Brauner is presenting his paper 'Queering Roth: Homosocial Discourse in the American Trilogy' at the Roth@80 Conference.  

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