AIDS, as it struck us, you and them, or, contemporary gay identity and the syndrome that never truly was

Richard Canning

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


This essay draws on my fifteen-year experience of teaching MA and BA modules at several British universities on AIDS-related literature, film, drama and culture, as well as bringing the subject into school classrooms (of English schoolchildren, aged 16-18), as part of university outreach programmes. It asks how the several distinct phases in Western understandings of the HIV/AIDS syndrome and epidemic – biomedically, socially and politically - have impacted on readers’ and audience members’ interpretation of the large body of literature and culture that has addressed the subject, focusing in particular upon representations in popular cultural forms such as film, television drama and theatre. Texts considered include Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia, Sapphire's Push - later adapted as the film Precious, Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World, and its subsequent film adaptation, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City novels Michael Tolliver Lives and Mary Ann in Autumn, Alistair McCartney's novel The End of the World Book, Douglas Carter Beane's play The Little Dog Laughed, the film I Love You, Philip Morris, TV sitcom Will and Grace and Craig Lucas's play and film The Dying Gaul. Critics considered include Sarah Schulman, Larry Kramer and Edmund White.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Meaning of Sexual Identity in the Twenty-First Century
EditorsJudith S. Kaufman, David A Powell
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-5883-0
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Richard Canning
  • epidemic
  • Jonathan Demme
  • Philadelphia
  • Sapphire
  • Push
  • Precious
  • Michael Cunningham
  • A Home at the End of the World
  • Armistead Maupin
  • Tales of the City
  • Michael Tolliver Lives
  • Mary Ann in Autumn
  • San Francisco
  • New York
  • Alistair McCartney
  • The End of the World Book
  • Douglas Carter Beane
  • The Little Dog Laughed
  • I Love You
  • Philip Morris
  • Will and Grace
  • gay
  • Craig Lucas
  • The Dying Gaul
  • Sarah Schulman
  • Larry Kramer
  • Edmund White


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