Benjamin Kahan is an Assistant Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Louisiana State University. He received his B.A. from Northwestern University (2002) and his M.A. (2004) and Ph.D. (2008) from University of Pennsylvania. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Sydney. He is the author of Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Duke University Press, 2013). This book charts a history and theory of celibacy. Redressing the scholarly and popular tendency to read celibacy as closeted homosexuality, this project differentiates the history of celibacy from the history of homosexuality. Through a consideration of celibacy in texts by Margaret Fuller, Henry James, Marianne Moore, Claude McKay, Father Divine, W. H. Auden, and Andy Warhol, Kahan traces the emergence of celibacy as a crucial political identity of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Celibacies argues that celibacy forces us to rethink what constitutes “sex.” His articles have appeared in or are forthcoming in GLQ, Arizona Quarterly, African American Review, Criticism, and A Handbook of Modernism Studies.
Kahan is currently at work on a second book project entitled Sexual Etiologies and the Making of the Congenital Body. This project theorizes an etiological rather than an epistemological approach to the history of sexuality. It recovers and deploys the wide variety of modernist conceptions of sexuality in order to reconsider the historical emergence and transformation of sexuality. Specifically, this project returns to a moment when scientists, scholars, and sexologists were undecided about whether sexuality was congenital or acquired in order to retrieve the acquired half of the history of homosexuality.
the history of sexuality and gender, queer theory, 20th century American literature and culture, psychoanalysis and sexology, race and ethnicity, critical theory.
“Antediluvian Sex: Countée Cullen, Christopher Smart, and the Queerness of Uplift” (forthcoming in African American Review)
“The Walk-in Closet: Situational Homosexuality and Homosexual Panic in Hellman’s The Children’s Hour,” Criticism 55.2 (Spring 2013)
“Queer Modernism” in A Handbook of Modernism Studies, ed. Jean-Michel Rabaté (Wiley-Blackwell, May 2013)
“The Other Harlem Renaissance: Father Divine, Celibate Economics, and the Making of Black Sexuality,” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literatures, Culture, and Theory 65.4 (Winter 2009): 37-61
“The Viper’s Traffic-knot’: Celibacy and Queerness in the ‘Late’ Marianne Moore,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14.4 (September 2008): 509-535