Espionage, Literature, and Liminal Citizens
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.
Carlston argues that in the modern West, a distinctive position has been assigned to those perceived to be marginal to the nation because of non-visible religious, political, or sexual differences. Because these "invisible Others" existed somewhere between the wholly alien and the fully normative, they evoked acute anxieties about the security and cohesion of the nation-state. Incorporating readings of nonliterary cultural artifacts, such as trial transcripts, into her analysis, Carlston pinpoints moments in which national self-conceptions in France, England, and the United States grew unstable. Concentrating specifically on the Dreyfus affair in France, the defections of Communist spies in the U.K., and the Rosenberg case in the United States, Carlston directly links twentieth-century tensions around citizenship to the social and political concerns of three generations of influential writers.
"Her work will interest scholars in GBLTQ studies as well as popular culture studies." — Choice
"Carlston's detailed, precise, rich, and innovative readings of both political texts and literary contexts manage to illuminate familiar territory and reveal features of the landscape not seen before. She succeeds brilliantly in seeing things hidden in plain sight, and her book is eye-opening as a result." — Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley
"Double Agents is a brilliant study of the Dreyfus Affair, the Cambridge spy scandal, and the Rosenberg trial, in which national anxieties about homosexuals and Jews as 'invisible others' undermining the state from within not only erupt into public view but also inspire surprising imaginative responses. Making double agency a virtue rather than a vice, writers such as Marcel Proust, W. H. Auden, and Tony Kushner redefine conceptions of citizenship, loyalty, and difference to illuminate how society may evolve. Erin G. Carlston's research is impeccable, her touch deft, and her analysis compelling." — Joseph A. Boone, University of Southern California
List of Illustrations
1. Citizens, Aliens, and Traitors
2. The Dreyfus Affair
3. Secret Dossiers
4. Truth Breathing Down the Neck of Fiction
5. The Ganelon Type
6. Strictly a Jewish Show
List of Abbreviations
Read the introduction to Double Agents (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)