Male Sexuality under Surveillance is a lively, intelligent, and expertly argued analysis of the construction of male sexuality in the business office. Graham Thompson interweaves three main threads: a historicized cultural analysis of the development of the modern business office from its beginnings in the early nineteenth century to the present day, a Foucauldian discussion of the office as the site of various disciplinary practices, and a queer-theoretical discussion of the textualization of the gay male body as a device for producing a taxonomy of male-male relations. The combination of these themes produces a study that is fresh, insightful, and provocative.
Moreover, this intriguing study simultaneously provides readings of primary texts—ranging from 1853 to 1995—that contribute substantially to scholarship on these works while advancing and deepening the theoretical discussions from which Male Sexuality under Surveillance derives its premises.
Thompson has divided his analysis into three sections. Part 1 examines the boundaries of male friendship in Herman Melville's “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, and Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt. Part 2 examines the impact of corporatization and the feminization of office work upon straight male sexuality between World War II and the 1970s, using Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Don DeLillo's Americana, and Joseph Heller's Something Happened. Part 3 shows how the sex and gender anxiety evident in straight male responses to the postwar office world is replaced by a different sense of how identity may be constructed in relation to work in Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine and The Fermata and Douglas Coupland's Microserfs.
Given its comprehensive scope, Male Sexuality under Surveillance will be of interest not only to Americanists in general but also to scholars interested in gender studies and gay and lesbian studies. In addition, because of its focus on the effects of changing economic structures on material culture and social organization, scholars interested in materialist approaches to literature will find the book inÞnitely valuable.
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Graham Thompson teaches in the English Department at De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., and is the author of The Business of America: The Literary and Critical Production of a Post-War Nation (forthcoming).
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