By Henry Blake Fuller
“Entertaining . . . eminently readable, special by means of fantastically evoked interval surroundings and sly humor.”—The big apple Times
America’s first homosexual novel, released in 1919.
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Extra info for Bertram Cope’s Year
These facts make it difficult to imagine what it would mean for Fuller to have deepened the realistic treatment of homosexuality. Approaches to Reading the Novel The text of Bertram Cope’s Year itself thematizes the issues raised by the discursive restraints Fuller faced in the writing of it. Contemplating Bertram Cope’s unusually wan countenance, and alluding to the unfinished portrait of him that Hortense Dunton has been secretly laboring to complete, Basil Randolph, in a manner that barely skirts being flirtatious, reminds the guests of his small dinner party (which consists only of Cope and Lemoyne) that it is “perplexing to an artist when one’s subject changes under one’s very eye” (186).
This carefully modulated dance of knowing and not knowing is part of the fun of reading Bertram Cope’s Year, but its intent is also seriously engaged in the relationship between a literary language of human sexual difference and the more categorical, less nuanced, and perhaps disciplinary discourses that contend with the art of the novel. Cope’s sexual disposition is also made manifest through the changing quality of his singing voice. Though he is described as having a resonant voice, when he sings at Medora’s party he sings “with care rather than with volume, with discretion rather than with abandon” (58).
Advertisements for the book, early newspaper reviews, the assessments of Fuller’s biographers, and present-day accounts of the reissue of the novel in the late 1990s provide a record of misreadings, corrections, shifting emphases, and newly developing appreciations that track the historical and social conditions in which the work was received and comprehended, as well as attest to the book’s thematic and formal ambiguities. In advertising the book, the publisher reprinted on the inside front cover extracts from critical commentary that stressed the book’s youthful characters “and a few older ones who would like to be young a little longer,” which may have led some readers to expect a typical campus novel of the kind Bertram Cope’s Year vaguely echoes and eschews.
Bertram Cope’s Year by Henry Blake Fuller