This essay argues that Glenway Wescott — an American author widely read in the early twentieth century but virtually unknown to literary scholars today — poses a problem for many of the narratives we tell ourselves about both queer identity and modernist literary history. On the one hand, the wandering, nonlinear plots of much of his fiction run counter to the narratives of urban migration, rural stasis, and ex‐urban return that shape most scholarship on sexual geography. On the other, Wescott's tendency to borrow aesthetic practices from a wide range of literary schools and movements makes it difficult to locate him within the narrative of American literary history. Reading Wescott's writings — particularly those in his short story collection Good‐Bye Wisconsin (1928) — as examples of what the essay terms queer drift, the author argues that Wescott's life and corpus destabilize the narratives we often use to make sense of both modern sexual identity and modernist literary aesthetics. In fact, this is why his work warrants more critical attention than it has traditionally received: it provides us with new ways of thinking about the relationship between queerness, geography, and narrative form.
Glenway Wescott's Narratives of Queer Drift
Patrick Kindig is assistant professor of English at Tarleton State University. He is the author of Fascination: Trance, Enchantment, and American Modernity (2022), and his scholarship has appeared in Textual Practice, Arizona Quarterly, Twentieth-Century Literature, and Modernism/modernity. His current book project, “Perceiving Queerly: Sexual and Perceptual Deviance in the Long Twentieth Century,” explores how normative models of sexuality and perception reciprocally shaped one another over the course of the long twentieth century.
Patrick Kindig; Glenway Wescott's Narratives of Queer Drift. GLQ 1 April 2023; 29 (2): 215–236. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10308507
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