UC San Diego
Affect in the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus /
- Author(s): Gurlly, Aaron W.
- et al.
Recent LGBT political victories in the U.S. call for an examination of gay pride, an examination which necessitates an exploration of the shame against which gay pride operates. I begin this project with an exploration of literatures of gay shame to illustrate how that concept is based on a specific, limited type of gay experience. Silvan Tomkins's affect theory suggests that we should understand shame more broadly than it is conceived in the gay shame literature. I argue that Tomkins's ideas regarding shame allow shame to maintain its utility even in a time of apparent social and political progress. I then explore literature on queer publics to show how those publics maintain a complex relationship with privacy. I do so in order to encourage the exploration of a type of queer public that has received only scant scholarly attention: LGBT choral organizations. Because LGBT choruses exist specifically to enact public performances, their relationship to privacy differs from those of other forms of queer publics. This project examines manifestations of gay shame and pride in the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus. Interviews with SDGMC members reveal a rift in thinking between members of the group, some of whom report not having experienced the kind of gay shame discussed by other members, but who, in the words of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, come to identify with those men and their personal accounts of shame. In the following two chapters I use analytic autoethnography to explore my experiences in SDGMC over the past five years; first, to discuss experience of performing a canonical gay shame narrative in front of audiences, and, second, to discuss performances of failed masculinity, performances enacted as part of my participation in choral activities. The dissertation ends with a discussion of the implications of identifying with shame and the current pride movement. I claim that the productive possibilities of shame are realized through interactions and performances facilitated by membership in a gay men's chorus, where interpersonal connections and conventions of theatrical performance encourage members to establish personal connections to narratives of shame, highlighting the importance of affective, rather than biographical, connections to gay shame narratives