The literature of AIDS

Richard Canning

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


This chapter considers the breadth, volume, diversity and appeal of works of literature in English which have engaged with the medical syndrome AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - since the first evidence of its spread in 1981. It cannot hope to be representative in terms of the global impact of the AIDS epidemic for a simple reason. Though the scale of HIV/AIDS in many non-Western societies is far greater than in Europe or America, non-Western literary and cultural manifestations of AIDS have been scarce. Equally, though many non-English cultures have seen an impressive, substantial body of AIDS-related literature emerge, I have focused on texts written or made in English. With the exception of a few French, Italian and Spanish authors and filmmakers - Cyril Collard, Hervé Guibert, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Ferzan Ozpetek, Pedro Almodovar and Juan Goytisolo - non-English texts have had a small circulation, rarely being translated or distributed in the English-speaking world. This relative invisibility holds true for works in English published in countries outside the USA, UK, Ireland and Canada, such as South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. For reasons of space, I have restricted myself mostly to British and American texts in a number of genres, which illustrate key tendencies, and to some lesser-known or untypical works, as well as to some critical and theoretical responses, both to the syndrome and to its cultural representations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing
EditorsHugh Stevens
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511781704
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010

Publication series

NameCambridge companions to literature


  • Richard Canning
  • literature
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Alan Hollinghurst
  • Edmund White
  • Hugh Stevens
  • gay
  • lesbian
  • Cambridge


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