Elevate Difference

Metropolitan Lovers: The Homosexuality of Cities

Julie Abraham’s Metropolitan Lovers: The Homosexuality of Cities is a survey of the presence of homosexuality within urban contexts throughout modern Western history. Following a concise preface synthesizing the extraordinarily broad and encompassing history of the relation shared by homosexual communities and cities, she fittingly opens with a chapter tracing the lesbian body throughout urban and literary history, exploring Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs Du Mal and Balzac’s The Girl with the Golden Eyes. The author acknowledges her challenge to recent assumptions regarding “the union of homosexuals and cities, namely, that the homosexuality of the city is always male,” and emphasizes an often overlooked facet of urban studies. Her treatment of the legibility of the lesbian and her privileging of this body is an important and refreshing contribution to LGBTQ studies.

Abraham is a Professor of literature and of LGBT Studies and Metropolitan Lovers evidences a marked emphasis on the relevance of literary perspectives to sociological interpretations of the city. She notes that it is in fact literature that has taught us how to “read” urban homosexuality and alludes to literary/philosophical figures such as Susan Sontag to enhance her portrayal of the theatricality of urban social life. A generous number of photographs and illustrations offer a satisfying visual element that becomes crucial to understanding the complexities of gaze and spectacle in the formulation of the modern city. Events such as Stonewall are not left unexamined in Abraham’s study as she attempts to portray as comprehensive history of the Western urban landscape through the lens of LGBTQ theory.

The tone of Metropolitan Lovers is a bit less erudite than it would appear to be based on Abraham’s scholarly career and university publisher. Her writing is lucid, accessible, perhaps more to the casual reader interested in a general introduction to an LGBTQ study of Western cities than for an academic researcher. This is not to say, however, that Abraham does not offer an insightful survey highlighting the relevance of homosexuality to the construction of the modern city. The work also provides an implicit introduction to the exercise of “queering” texts previously understood in heterocentric terms and will most certainly contribute to and stimulate future scholarship and interrogations of what it means to be urban and queer.

Written by: Melissa McCarron, June 30th 2009