Masculinity, Masturbation and Writing in Portnoy's Complaint and Adaptation Open Access

Austin, Benjamin (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/f7623d102?locale=en
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Abstract

This study considers the relationship between practices and representations of autoeroticism and the practice of writing, particularly as this relationship can illuminate understandings of masculinities. By drawing representational examples from film, literature and other media, this study deploys the figure of the masturbating man as a site where queerness and abjection coalesce around hetero-masculine identity. These cases studies and analyses show that representations of masturbators are rich sites from which heteromasculinity can be recuperated for queer readings that may unlock subversive and nonnormative potentials in figures of abjection, failure, and childishness. These readings reflect how representations of masturbating men condition and construct men's relationships to their own bodies, their sexual practices and identifications through sexuality and gender. The first chapter discusses Portnoy's Complaint (1969), considering how Philip Roth constructs Alexander Portnoy as a figure of contestation within cultural narratives of sexual liberation and psychoanalysis whose autoerotic childishness can be read as a form of resistance to normative heteromasculinity. The second chapter on Adaptation (2002) examines how Charlie Kaufman's writing practice and autoeroticism are linked in the film, primarily via solitude and anti-sociality, but also, importantly through imaginativity, creativity and fantasy. This second chapter argues that the film productively narrativizes masturbation's generative capacity and the ways in which it is imbricated in identity, sociality, and masculinity. The third chapter of the thesis broadens the scope of investigation to consider a variety representational engagements from contemporary film and other media with masturbating men and solitary sex in order to consider how these texts shape cultural understandings of masculinity and autoeroticism and how apparently heteronormative narratives can be reread to produce masturbators as subversive figures.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction......................................................................................................................... 1

Chapter One

"Liberating" the Queer Child in Alexander Portnoy........................................................ 21

Chapter Two

Adaptation: The Masturbating Writer............................................................................... 42

Chapter Three

Masturbating Men across Contemporary Film and Media............................................... 63

Conclusion ....................................................................................................................... 83

Works Cited ..................................................................................................................... 88

Films Cited ....................................................................................................................... 91

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