Erotic Transgression: Sexualities and Companionship in Graham Greene's Fiction

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This dissertation examines the role of sexuality in Graham Greene's fiction. Instead of compartmentalizing Greene's description of sex as an element of his Catholic perspective, this study reverses this view and argues that sexuality is at the center of Greene's spiritual and moral life. Greene examines facets of sexuality that are often considered perverse or aberrant; his encompassing view of sexual life informs the political, moral, and religious issues of his novels.

Key texts include The Man Within (1929), The End of the Affair (1951), The Quiet American (1955), Travels with My Aunt (1969), The Human Factor (1978), and Monsignor Quixote (1982), as well as selected short stories. These texts, as well as Greene's autobiographies and travel writings, reveal a performative, polymorphous, and conflicted sexuality. The chapters of this project discuss sexuality of pain; scopophilia and exhibitionism; the role of fertility and sterility; confession and sexual talk; and the relationships between men.

Ultimately, Greene's evolving depictions of sexuality assume a central role in his work and become the most important way that his characters make meaning in a postwar, post-Eliot world. Rather than accept the view of modern life as a wasteland, Greene reinvests it with drama, danger, and existential importance through his exploration of sexuality. His interest in pain, scopophilia, adulterous or triangular relationships, and other forms of unusual sexuality simultaneously normalize these forms by suggesting that they are functional parts of erotic life, and present a radical view of what normative life really is. Rather than arguing that there is no such thing as perversion or aberration, Greene suggests that even ordinary erotic life--inasmuch as there is such a thing--places us in touch with our most existential fears, carries the possibility of creation and the prospect of our own replacement and death, and challenges our metaphysical senses of selfhood and religious belief.