Reinterpreting the Myth

In our discussion with Professor Garibaldi, I was especially struck by the reinterpretation of Renaissance art, which we discussed in relation to the Lil Nas X video. In my PLS seminar, we are covering the Renaissance period through history, theology, and literature. Sometimes, those texts can feel so dead to me, especially in light of the fruitful conversations I am able to have about race and gender in my English classes. However, the “Montero” music video perfectly shows the way a canon can be passed down and reimagined to make space for the traditionally marginalized voice or artist. Interestingly, I am also struck by the ways this reinterpretation transcends the boundaries of time and brings a piece of art from centuries ago into the modern consciousness so dramatically. Last week, I wrote on the sort of queer temporality that Baldwin sketches out. I’m curious whether Baldwin’s subversive mixing of the sacred and the profane in his reinterpretation of biblical myths could relate to the question of temporality. To me, it seems that, for the characters, homosexuality allows an escape from the oppressive constraints of time. For Baldwin, though, the work of reinterpreting provides a further escape from the bounds of time. Ultimately, this transcendence more effectively allows for a resistance to the domination of a heteronormative world.

Lots of folks have discussed the Eden image is a great place to look on the question of biblical reinterpretation in this text. The idea that “nobody stays in the garden of Eden” precedes the claim that “everybody has a garden” (239). This parallels with David’s American proposition that we are not fish in the common, plain water of time waiting to be eaten, but rather “you can choose to be eaten and also not to eat” (248). In both the conception of Eden and the discussion of time, there is a distinction made between an oppressive, inevitable constraint and a moment of blissful, individualized freedom. This ultimately points back to the struggle of homosexuality in a hetero-world. In this way, Baldwin is also able, like Lil Nas X, to use biblical language to create an understanding of one dimension his intersectional exclusion.