Facing It

AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author
Ross Chambers
Explores the connection between the politics of AIDS writing and the ethics of reading


For a generation or more, literary theorists have used the metaphor of "the death of the author" in considering the observation that to write is to abdicate control over the meanings one's text is capable of generating. But in the case of AIDS diaries, the metaphor can be literal. Facing It examines the genre not in classificatory terms but pragmatically, as the site of a social interaction. Through a detailed study of three such diaries, originating respectively in France, the United States, and Australia, Ross Chambers demonstrates that issues concerning the politics of AIDS writing and the ethics of reading are linked by a common concern with the problematics of survivorhood. Two of the diaries chosen for special attention in this light are video diaries: La Pudeur ou l'impudeur by Hervé Guibert (author of To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life), and Silverlake Life, by the American videomaker Tom Joslin (aided by his lover and friends, notably Peter Friedman). The third is a defiant but anxious text, Unbecoming, by an American anthropologist, Eric Michaels, who died in Brisbane, Australia, in 1988. Other authors more briefly examined include Pascal de Duve, Bertrand Duquénelle, Alain Emmanuel Dreuilhe, David Wojnarowicz, Gary Fisher, and the filmmaker (not a diarist) Laurie Lynd. Finally, Facing It takes on the issue of its own relevance, asking what contributions literary criticism can make in the midst of an epidemic.

Ross Chambers is Distinguished University Professor of French and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan, and author of Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative and Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . provides us with a poignant analysis of AIDS autobiography in the first decade of the epidemic, one that honors the subjectivity and politics of AIDS autobiographers while avoiding victimizing those who suffer from AIDS. . . . It is literary criticism at its best. To cast the reading of AIDS diaries in a framework of mourning, as Chambers does, is helpful."
    —Julien S. Murphy, Biography, Winter 2000

  • "Groundbreaking in its approach and potentially wide in its appeal. . . . The rigor of the ideas, their dramatic nature, and the political drive of the rhetoric all should win Facing It a large readership that could extend far beyond students of narrative or queer theory."
    —David Bergman, Towson University, editor of Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality

  • Winner: University of Michigan's 2000 University of Michigan Press Book Award

Look Inside


1. Writing AIDS     1
2. Dying as an Author     17
3. Confronting It: La pudeur ou l'impudeur and the Phantom Image     35
4. An Education in Seeing: Silverlake Life     61
5. Anxious Reading: Eric Michaels's Unbecoming     81
6. RSVP, or Reading and Mourning     115
Afterword     137
References     143

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 160pp.
  • 1 photograph.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08748-8

Add to Cart
  • $21.95 U.S.

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