This article develops the concept of “misfit minorities,” drawing on the Christopher Isherwood archive, and focusing on Isherwood’s seminal novel, A Single Man, and his autobiographical revision of the Berlin years, Christopher and His Kind. The essay argues that Isherwood’s Single Man and his American, post-1960s literary persona as a staunch advocate for gay liberation needs to be revisited, given the novel’s ambivalence toward the politics of identity, and given Isherwood’s aesthetic distrust of the instrumentalization of literature as propaganda. Rather, we ought to reconsider Isherwood and his legacy as consistently suspicious of identity. Rather than deprecating his earlier works (such as the Berlin Stories) as closeted gay fictions, we should read them as queer literary texts, rendering Isherwood not only a standard-bearer for gay liberation, but a complex queer thinker, who develops a “misfit” literary aesthetic of ascetic impersonality and queer relationality, before the ascendance of gay publics and politics in our own era, after Stonewall.
Gonzalez, O. R. “Isherwood’s Impersonality: Ascetic Self-Divestiture and Queer Relationality in A Single Man.” MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 59.4:758-783. (Winter 2013).