Fluid Sexualities in Frank Norris's McTeague

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Virginia Tech

Frank Norris's novel McTeague can be read as an intense reflection on the limitations of language surrounding fluid sexualities in late-nineteenth century America. Through a queer theoretical lens, I examine the ways in which Norris collapses his characters and narrative in order to demonstrate those limits. Trina and McTeague suffer acutely from their inability to articulate their sexualities, and the narrator of the novel does little to compensate for the characters' failure to speak. The novel, which is a collection of broken genres, further exposes the fact that various kinds of rigid narrative forms cannot sufficiently frame or articulate fluid sexualities. Through character, narrative, and genre breakdown, Norris reflects how the nineteenth century's lack of language regarding those who occupy a variety of sexualities can tear people and language apart.

American literature, Frank Norris, McTeague, queer theory, sexuality