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Ty Blakeney

Doctoral Candidate, ABD
on zoom
Tuesday 3:00–5:00

Research Areas

  • 19th, 20th, and 21st century French literature and culture
  • gender and sexuality
  • critical theory
  • film and media studies


My research focuses on the relationship between same-sex sexuality, state power, and literature. My dissertation, “Inclinations vicieuses”: Gay Sex and State Power in Prisons from 1830 to the present, draws on a novel archive of literary and historical texts in order to rethink the relationship between state power and sexuality more broadly. My archive demonstrates that, far from being confined to the shadows, gay sex has been an open fact of incarceration since the inception of the modern prison in the early nineteenth century. This archive is diverse, from literary works by Victor Hugo and Jean Genet and films by Marcel Carné and Jean-Daniel Cadinot, to documents produced by prison officials, doctors, and sexologists (for example, a survey of prison wardens about gay sex taken in 1834), to journalistic reportages and documentaries produced about prison life (for example, Francis Carco’s 1931 Prisons de femmes). Applying close reading techniques to these texts allows me to study what Foucault calls the “infimes matérialités” of gay sex in prison and to demonstrate how these sexual relationships are elaborated within a complex field of state power, moving beyond tired and often damaging tropes of prison rape and the broadly held idea within queer theory that “the state” (monolithic and heteronormative) is always inherently opposed to same-sex sexuality (outlaw and queer), an idea that I name the “outlaw thesis.”

Opposed to this binary view of state power, I draw on an original theoretical corpus—ephemeral oral, journalistic, and political texts of Michel Foucault and the recently-published lectures of Pierre Bourdieu on the state—to argue for a much more granular and nuanced view of state power, one that accounts for the ways in which individual agents struggle to achieve their desires in ways that are shaped and constrained by the field of state power. The rich sexual lives of prisoners that I unearth are stark reminders of the limits of even the most repressive and inhumane institutions of state power. Rather than a paranoid account of a power that is constantly intervening in the sexual lives of state subjects, my dissertation points to the blind spots of the state, the important ways in which state officials are often indifferent or at least resigned to certain contraventions of the law. (“Ben, j’en finirais plus !” says a guard in Carco’s Prisons de Femmes when the warden asks her to erase an explicit graffito. “Je m’y userais les pattes.”) It also produces surprising trajectories in which seemingly “queer” figures come to be aligned with the state and manifestly “state” agents appear less closely aligned with state power than we previously thought. (Take, for instance, the trajectory of Pierre-François Lacenaire, a murderer who had an intimate sexual friendship with a fellow prisoner before his execution in 1836. In the 19th century, he was seen as the social deviant par excellence, but by the 1990s he had become a French hero, held up by certain film scholars as proof of the Republic’s accepting attitude toward homosexuality in contrast to a more prudish United States.)

I have many years of teaching experience, including French language courses (first and second year), and reading and composition courses of my own design, including:

  • “Alternative Realties: Queer Melodramatics and the Hegemony of Truth”
  • “No Homo: Same-Sex Sexuality Between Straight Men”
  • “Social/Form: The Novel of Manners and Its Afterlives”
  • “French Film Before the New Wave”
  • “A History of Heterosexuality”
  • “The Rhetoric of Scientific Language and the Construction of Objectivity”

Selected Publications

Recent publications:

  • “‘The moment is poorly chosen’: Proust, Same-Sex Sexuality and Nationalism,” Paragraph 45.1 (March 2022), ed. Michael Lucey. 39–57.

  • “Challenging the Outlaw Thesis: New Configurations of Sexuality, Nation, and Aesthetics in the Work of Renaud Camus,” in The Subject of Ethnonationalism, ed. Joshua Branciforte and Ramsey McGlazer, Fordham UP. Forthcoming, 2022.

Earlier work:

  • “Textual Engagement with the Other in Cyrano de Bergerac’s L’Autre Monde,” as Tyler Blakeney, co-authored with Ann T. Delehanty, French Studies 68 (3): July 2014.