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Magic, diaspora, and klezbian desire in Judith Katz's The Escape Artist

By Emma Parker

Abstract

This is an electronic version of an article published in Textual Practice, 2011, 25 (4), pp. 689-710. Textual Practice is available online at: www.tandfonline.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=1470-1308&date=2011&volume=25&issue=4&spage=689.This essay examines the ways in which magic articulates the traumatic effects and transformative potential of migration in Judith Katz’s The Escape Artist, a novel that constructs a woman-centred and queer counter-history of the Jewish diaspora. It proposes that Katz employs the motif of vanishing tricks to explore the relationship between the trauma of migration and non-normative sexualities. Further, drawing on Terry Castle’s observation that, historically, lesbianism has appeared in culture only ‘as an absence, as chimera or amor impossibilia’ and Gayatri Gopinath’s observation that non-normative genders and same-sex desire are rendered inconceivable by conventional models of diaspora, it argues that the conjuring and escapology practised by the novel’s two female protagonists represent a radical desire to achieve the impossible. Katz’s cross-dressed magician and her assistant, who escapes the ‘white slave trade’, achieve this when they shatter the illusion of heteronormativity and take the mutually exclusive binary categories of gender to vanishing point. The novel also reconceives home and history from a post-Zionist, queer perspective. Elaborating on Jonathan Freedman’s assertion that klezmer music represents the queer, the diasporic, and the Jewish, the essay thus proposes that The Escape Artist celebrates the subversive possibilities of a specifically ‘klezbian’ subjectivity and desire.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Topics: Magic, diaspora, Jewish, lesbian, klezmer, transvestism, history, queer fiction
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/0950236X.2011.586776
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9780
Journal:

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