Critics of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) have attended to the film’s motifs of doubling, pairing, and reversal. We, however, approach Strangers on a Train as an interrogation of the couple form, as a violently comic challenge to its normative regulation of the social order. If the film is obsessed with the number two, it is equally obsessed with all the ways in which this even number can prove to be odd or strange or queer, as exemplified from the beginning by the male strangers coupled by its title. Such is the force of the film’s obsession with the number two, however, that it features more than one odd couple; indeed, it may be said to constitute a veritable carnival of couples, whose insistence on adding up to more or less than two compels us to reflect on the relations between queerness and the couple — on how the couple necessarily exceeds itself.
TWO MUCH: Excess, Enjoyment, and Estrangement in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train
Lee Edelman is the Fletcher Professor of English Literature at Tufts University. He has published widely on theory, literature, and film and is the author, most recently, of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004), and, with Lauren Berlant, Sex, or the Unbearable (2014). He is currently completing “Bad Education: Why Queerness Teaches Us Nothing.”
Joseph Litvak, a professor of English at Tufts University, is the author of books including The Un- Americans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture (Duke University Press, 2009) and Strange Gourmets: Sophistication, Theory, and the Novel (Duke University Press, 1997). As a translator, he has published Ahmed the Philosopher (Columbia University Press, 2014), an English version of a comic play by Alain Badiou. He is currently writing a book on comedy and politics.
Lee Edelman, Joseph Litvak; TWO MUCH: Excess, Enjoyment, and Estrangement in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. GLQ 1 April 2019; 25 (2): 297–314. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-7367764
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