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Double Agents: Espionage, Literature, and Liminal Citizens

Double Agents: Espionage, Literature, and Liminal Citizens

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Read the introduction to "Double Agents: Espionage, Literature, and Liminal Citizens," by Erin Carlston.

Why were white bourgeois gay male writers so interested in spies, espionage, and treason in the twentieth century? Erin G. Carlston believes such figures and themes were critical to exploring citizenship and its limits, requirements, and possibilities in the modern Western state. Through close readings of Marcel Proust’s novels, W. H. Auden’s poetry, and Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America, which all reference real-life espionaage cases involving Jews, homosexuals, or Communists, Carlston connects gay men’s fascination with spying to larger debates about the making and contestation of social identity.
Read the introduction to "Double Agents: Espionage, Literature, and Liminal Citizens," by Erin Carlston.

Why were white bourgeois gay male writers so interested in spies, espionage, and treason in the twentieth century? Erin G. Carlston believes such figures and themes were critical to exploring citizenship and its limits, requirements, and possibilities in the modern Western state. Through close readings of Marcel Proust’s novels, W. H. Auden’s poetry, and Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America, which all reference real-life espionaage cases involving Jews, homosexuals, or Communists, Carlston connects gay men’s fascination with spying to larger debates about the making and contestation of social identity.

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Published by: Columbia University Press on Apr 10, 2013
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IntroductIon
In the all o 2007, a small group o evangelical protesters arrived on thecampus o the University o North Carolina at Chapel Hill to preach. Mosto the slogans on their placards were amiliar variations on themes o sexualand cultural corruption, but one banner, which announced that “Homo SexIs a Threat to National Security,” seemed to puzzle many who saw it. Theprotesters were, like the perplexed UNC students, too young to rememberthe 1950s, when that equation was evoked regularly by government ocialsand the media. And probably none o them knew that in claiming a connec-tion between sexual conduct and the integrity o the nation-state, theseevangelicals were drawing on a discursive tradition reaching back centuriesthat links sexual deviance
a
to religious heresy, cultural dierence, and politi-cal subversion.This book investigates the associations drawn between male homo-sexuals, Jews, and Communists as iconic threats to national security,particularly in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By looking atthree espionage scandals in three Western countries—the Dreyus Aairin France, the deections o Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean rom Great
a. A note on usage: In discussing same-sex sexuality I have tried to use the vocabulary appro-priate to the relevant time period, while retaining the modern and slightly less value-laden
homosexuality
as a convenient shorthand; thus male homosexuality and lesbianism are vari-ously termed, in the pages that ollow,
 sodomy
,
buggery
,
inversion
,
 perversion
, and so on. I otenuse the term
deviance
, not as a pejorative judgment but in order to group phenomena that, while varying over time and in dierent countries, have all been orceully designated as aberrant.
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introduction
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Britain, and the Rosenberg trial in the United States—I elucidate how con-ceptions o Communism and male homosexuality have been shaped by representations o Jewishness as potentially incompatible with citizenshipin the modern Western nation-state. Reading these cases against literary  works by Marcel Proust, W. H. Auden, and Tony Kushner, I nd that Jewish-ness, homosexuality, and Communism are comparably and conjointly g-ured in these texts as liminal, alien, occulted, and disruptive to the nation—and, at times, as potential sources o the nation’s transormative renewal.Dreyus, Burgess, Maclean, and the Rosenbergs were certainly not theonly Jews, homosexuals, or Communists involved in espionage scandals inthe modern West. Numerous other examples spring to mind: Roger Case-ment, a homosexual Irish revolutionary hanged or treason in 1916; Whit-taker Chambers and Alger Hiss, whose alleged espionage was made public inthe late 1940s; John Vassall, a homosexual British naval attaché blackmailedinto espionage by the Soviets and convicted in 1962; Jonathan Pollard, stillserving a lie sentence in the United States or spying or Israel. But I am ascholar o literature, and so I have chosen to ocus on cases that have oundrefection in literary texts, texts that both generate political discourses andare infected by them. Tracing the imaginative and expressive orms in whichideas about, or example, citizenship and dierence have been posed enablesme to recover the imprints o concepts that have otherwise largely disap-peared rom public discourse. It allows me to claim that homophobia andanti-Semitism are integrally related, that the conception o homosexuality as a political/politicized identity retains the mark o its origins in the anti-Semitic European climate o Proust’s time, and that Communism has servedas an axis connecting the two in the Anglo-American political context.
Mapping the terrain:Definitions anD BounDaries
 At the outset o this discussion I want to clariy how I am dening treasonand espionage, and their relationship. Legally speaking, the crime o trea-son is dened very dierently in dierent countries and particularly nar-rowly in America, where the ounders, anxious not to recreate the sweep-ing statutes that made a great range o oenses against the British monarchtreasonable in the eighteenth century, constitutionally restricted the de-nition o the crime to “levying War against” the United States or “adheringto their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comort.”
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