Being "Ourselves": Alternating Identities in the Fiction of Lyle Saxon

Dr. Chance Harvey
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While Lyle Saxon occupies a minor place in Southern regionalist fiction, his greatest "fiction" was his own life. His persona of Louisiana aristocrat is belied by his birthplace in Washington State, and his lifelong involvement with women served as cover for his homosexuality. A sad, lonely alcoholic, Saxon overcame the reality of his life to create his role as "Mr New Orleans" and "genial host" to the French Quarter literati in the 1920s. Saxon's work of self-creation found expression in his fictional works as well. He writes himself into his literary texts, at once reinventing himself and revealing the man behind the mask. Nearly all his protagonists, oppressed by the larger culture of time and place, violate social/racial/sexual taboos. For example, in "Children of Strangers", they challenge the constricts of race and sex; in "The Centaur Plays Croquet", the social and sexual constricts of Victorian culture. In their struggle, they (and Saxon) realize a private moment of grace.

Keywords: Louisiana, Persona, Culture, Social, Racial, Sexual Constricts
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity, Sexuality, Gender, Families
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Being "Ourselves"

Dr. Chance Harvey

Lecturer, Department of English, Southeastern Louisiana University

Dr Chance Harvey received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English from Millsaps College, Duke University, and Tulane University, respectively. She has taught in the English departments of Tulane University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the University of Mississippi. Dr Harvey recently published a biography, "The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon" (New Orleans: Pelican, 2003), and she regularly gives lectures about Saxon to academic and civic audiences. She presently teaches in the English Department of Southeastern Louisiana University.

Ref: H05P0826