Books and Novels

Queer Ventennio

Publisher: Peter Lang
Published: 2019

Given fascist proscriptions against homosexuality, a surprising number of artists under Mussolini’s regime were queer. Exploring the contribution of Italy to our understanding of both the history of homosexuality and European modernism, this ground-breaking study analyses three queer modernists – writer Giovanni Comisso, painter and writer Filippo de Pisis, and painter Corrado Cagli. None self-identified as fascists; none, however, were consistent critics of the regime. All understood their own sexuality via the idea of the primitive – a discourse fascism also employed in its efforts to secure consent for the dictatorship. What happens when we return to these men and their work minus the assumption that our most urgent task is identifying their fascist tendencies or political quietism? Variously infantilized, pathologized, marginalized, and stigmatized, treated as both cause and effect of fascism, queer ventennio artists are an easy target, not brave or selfless or savvy enough to see their common struggle with fascism’s other victims. Revisiting their works and lives with an eye toward neither rehabilitation nor condemnation allows us to ponder more carefully the relationship between art and politics, how homophobia has structured art criticism, the need to further bring queer perspectives to Italian cultural analysis, and how such men disrupt our sense of modern homo/heterosexual definition.


Italian Masculinity as Queer Melodrama

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Published: 2015

Offering Queer Analyses of paintings by Caravaggio and Puccini and films by Özpetek, Amelio, and Grimaldi, John Champagne argues that Italian masculinity has often been articulated through melodrama. Reading the melodramatic sensibility across three different periods in Italian history and three different media, this book sheds light on Italy’s contribution to the development of melodramatic sensibility. Wide in scope and multidisciplinary in approach, this much-needed study showed the vital role of affect for both Italian history and masculinity studies.


Aesthetic Modernism and Masculinity in Fascist Italy

Publisher: Routledge
Published: 2012

Aesthetic Modernism and Masculinity in fascist Italy is an interdisciplinary historical rereading of a series of representative text that complicate out current understanding of the portrayal of masculinity in the Italian Fascinate era. Examining paintings, music, and literature in light of some of the ideological and material contradictions that animated the regime, it argues that fascist masculinity was itself high contradictory. It brings to the fore works that have tended to be under-studied, and argues that, while fascist inclusive strategies of patronage worked to bind artists to the regime, an official policy of non-interference may inadvertently have opened up a space whereby the arts expressed a more complicated and contestatory view of masculinity than the one proffered by kitsch photos of a bare chested Mussolini skiing.

Champagne seeks to eventuate how the aesthetic analysis of the artifacts explored offers a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of what world politics is, what is at stake when something – like masculinity – is rendered as being an element of world politics, and how such and understanding differed from more orthodox “cultural” analyses common to international relations.

Providing a significant contribution to understanding of representation of masculinities in modernist art, this work will be great interest to students and scholars of gender studies, queer studies, political studies, Italian studies, and art history.


The Ethics of Marginality

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Published: 1995

Given fascist proscriptions against homosexuality, a surprising number of artists under Mussolini’s regime were queer. Exploring the contribution of Italy to our understanding of both the history of homosexuality and European modernism, this ground-breaking study analyses three queer modernists – writer Giovanni Comisso, painter and writer Filippo de Pisis, and painter Corrado Cagli. None self-identified as fascists; none, however, were consistent critics of the regime. All understood their own sexuality via the idea of the primitive – a discourse fascism also employed in its efforts to secure consent for the dictatorship. What happens when we return to these men and their work minus the assumption that our most urgent task is identifying their fascist tendencies or political quietism? Variously infantilized, pathologized, marginalized, and stigmatized, treated as both cause and effect of fascism, queer ventennio artists are an easy target, not brave or selfless or savvy enough to see their common struggle with fascism’s other victims. Revisiting their works and lives with an eye toward neither rehabilitation nor condemnation allows us to ponder more carefully the relationship between art and politics, how homophobia has structured art criticism, the need to further bring queer perspectives to Italian cultural analysis, and how such men disrupt our sense of modern homo/heterosexual definition.


When the Parrot Boy Sings

Publisher: Carol Pub Group
Published: 1990

Will is a young New York artist who, through collages, constructs a world out of unrelated elements. When it comes to his personal life, however, he hasn’t got a clue where things get pasted up. When the Parrot Boy Sings is a masterful narrative that weaves together Will’s recollections, observations, dreams and private mythology. This novel follows Will’s attempts – some sad, some funny – to put himself “in order.” His constant companions are the beautiful Fish Baby and the haunting Parrot Boy – both private mythical creatures that he hopes will help him give some sense to his life.


The Blue Lady’s Hands

Publisher: Lyle Stuart
Published: 1988

This distinguished first novel is the story of a young man’s attempt to understand what it means for him to love – to love another man and to live in our post-AIDS society. He knows that his relationship with a lover will be nothing like his parents’ marriage. But, by the same token, he has no desire to follow the examples set out by his gay friends. Caught between two impossible alternatives – marriage based on emotional dependency and a life of sexual encounters with strangers – he seeks to discover a new way– his own way – with the help of the Blue Lady. Weaving narrative, personal myth, and poetry, the novel is one of the first to deal with the realities of navigating desire in light of HIV disease.