Book Review: Metropolitan Lovers, the Homosexuality of Cities

Book Review on Literature and LGBT Studies Professor Julie Abraham's book "Metropolitan Lovers". This post was written by RBP team member line of flight from Sampaloc Toc.

Julie Abraham is an American professor of literature and LGBT studies. Abraham's book is an interesting look at the connection between the idea of the "city" and homosexual identity -- lesbian and gay.

I must admit up front that I found the book to be very Euro-American centric and failed to address the relation of the city and sexuality to colonialism and imperialism or test her theories of that relationship to the conscious city creating in colonized places. Because of this, I found a lot of the book boring and tedious to read. But, if you're into urban studies or European lesbian nineteenth century history or Oscar Wilde, you'll likely find this book much more interesting.

That being said, the book got me thinking of Benedict Anderson's highly controversial Under Three Flags and the questions he and Neil Garcia think about the possibility of Jose Rizal being gay. Because both that book and this one focuses on nineteenth century Paris, it occured to me that Abraham missed a great discussion over sexuality, urbanity and colonialism. While Anderson felt Rizal rejected anarchism with Ibarra/Simoun's death at the end of Fili, I always saw the shadowy figure rushing into the party and thwarting the lamp-bomb to show that Rizal had ambivalence about anarchism. It was a compensation for Simoun's fanaticism. Rizal was not yet ready for a cosmopolitan/urban sexuality and so Simoun dies in the arms of a provincial priest.

Abraham has the right idea of the connection between urban space and sexual identity communities. However, I think she focused only on white, Euro-American lesbians and gays and failed to address the racial or colonial dimensions that inform both urban development andsexual identity formations in former colonial nations.

The version I read was a 344 page hardback published by University of Minnesota Press (January 30, 2009), ISBN-13: 978-0816638185. It is written in English. Unless you are really interested in nineteenth century Euro-American lesbian and gay history or urban studies, I would not buy this book.

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