Thomas Yingling was a rising star in American studies, a leading figure in gay and lesbian studies, and a prominent theorist of AIDS and cultural politics when he died in 1992. AIDS and the National Body is a brilliant excursion into the mind and heart of Yingling, author of the critically acclaimed book, Hart Crane and the Homosexual Text. Robyn Wiegman, a friend and colleague of Yingling’s, has collected in this book a selection of his critical and creative work. These previously published and unpublished essays, nonacademic prose, poetry, and letters are a powerful testimonial to the intellectual legacy left by Yingling.
Contemplating the contradictions of individual identity from within a human body adapting to and living within a collective national culture, Yingling delves into such issues as canon formation, poetic theory, and the rhetoric of the body in American popular culture. In addition to Wiegman’s illuminating introduction, the conversation is joined by four other scholars—Michael Awkward, Robert L. Caserio, Stephen Melville, and David Román—whose critical and personal responses to Yingling’s writing weigh in throughout the volume. What emerges is a collection that embodies the particular difficulties of living with AIDS, of outliving someone who has died of AIDS, and of losing prematurely an important thinker.