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A diachronic analysis of the language of AIDS in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City

Analyse diachronique du vocabulaire du SIDA dans les Chroniques de San Francisco d’Armistead Maupin
Christelle Klein-Scholz
p. 179-171

Abstracts

Using Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series (a nine-volume saga which chronicles the lives of a network of characters living in San Francisco), this paper examines the diachronic evolution of the specialized language of AIDS. It first attempts to delineate the language of AIDS, and asks whether or not it can be termed “specialized.” Then it takes a closer look at the “before” picture and at the “after” picture, the great divide being 1996, the year when antiretroviral therapies were developed, changing the very nature of HIV/AIDS. It shows that, in the pre-AIDS era, words and silences are heavy with the prospect of death, and that, when this weight is lifted, language is left with some scars. The conclusion of this paper questions the links that bind the authors of “AIDS literature” to the specialized domain, using former Executive Director of UNAIDS Peter Piot’s notion of “experts of experience.”

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Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on March 2018.

Outline

1. Do you speak AIDS? Terminological clarifications
2. The “before” picture
3. The day after, and beyond
Conclusion

First lines

The paper focuses on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series, an American body of literature that was considered as “the first fiction […] to acknowledge AIDS.” This body of literature goes against Oscar Wilde’s statement that “all art is quite useless” (1890: 4); it can be termed “art” without the shadow of a doubt, and yet also has a specific purpose. This literature, which is often referred to as “AIDS literature,” consists of a number of novels that were written and published in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, i.e., the 1980s and early 1990s, and that are still being written and published, though the pace of publication has significantly declined. Those novels, of which Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series is one example among many, are mostly authored by gay men,and they stand at a crossroads between art and activism: they can be thought of as works of art and they also feature elements whose goal in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was to circulate...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Christelle Klein-Scholz, « A diachronic analysis of the language of AIDS in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City », ASp, 71 | 2017, 179-171.

Electronic reference

Christelle Klein-Scholz, « A diachronic analysis of the language of AIDS in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City », ASp [Online], 71 | 2017, Online since 01 March 2018, connection on 22 October 2017. URL : http://asp.revues.org/4997 ; DOI : 10.4000/asp.4997

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About the author

Christelle Klein-Scholz

Christelle Klein-Scholz defended her Ph.D. dissertation, " 'I remember when a diagnosis was a death sentence': AIDS and death in gay literature" in 2014. Her current fields of research include: the body, illness/disease, and death in literature, the construction of identity in/through literature, and the specialized language of health and medicine. She teaches English at Lycée Victor Hugo in Marseille. klein_chr@yahoo.fr

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