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Juhasz, S. (2004). The Prince is Wearing a Tutu: Queer Identity and Identificatory Reading in Jane Hamilton's the Short History of a Prince. Am. Imago, 61(2):134-164.

(2004). American Imago, 61(2):134-164

The Prince is Wearing a Tutu: Queer Identity and Identificatory Reading in Jane Hamilton's the Short History of a Prince

Suzanne Juhasz

“Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.” Photograph by Dana Lixenberg. Originally published in The New Yorker.

Reading Jane Hamilton's wonderful 1998 novel, The Short History of a Prince, I became a member of a fascinating ménage à trois. The author is an exceptionally fine writer and an heterosexual woman; her protagonist, Walter McCloud, failed ballet dancer and high school English teacher, is a gay man; I, the reader, am an English professor, a student of ballet, and a lesbian woman. We three come together in my mind by way of my identificatory reading process. I identify with both Walter and Jane, and I imagine the three of us forming a unit in which we participate in and partake of one another. How does this come to be? What psychodynamic processes transpire as I, a lesbian woman reader, identify with a gay male character and with the straight woman who has created him, and what results from this triadic mental coupling?

In this paper I take a postclassical psychoanalytic approach to the reading process to propose that identifying with characters and authors in novels is an aspect of the developmental process of identification, which in turn is central to establishing self-identity. Identifications can both confirm and expand one's sense of self, and this is one of the reasons why reading is so important to many people. And although identifying emphasizes a feeling of likeness, it becomes apparent that difference, too, can prove vital to the enterprise.

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