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Place for Us

Place for Us

Essay on the Broadway Musical

D. A. Miller

ISBN 9780674003880

Publication date: 09/01/2000

It used to be a secret that, in its postwar heyday, the Broadway musical recruited a massive underground following of gay men. But though this once silent social fact currently spawns jokes that every sitcom viewer is presumed to be in on, it has not necessarily become better understood.

In Place for Us, D. A. Miller probes what all the jokes laugh off: the embarrassingly mutual affinity between a "general" cultural form and the despised "minority" that was in fact that form's implicit audience. In a style that is in turn novelistic, memorial, autobiographical, and critical, the author restores to their historical density the main modes of reception that so many gay men developed to answer the musical's call: the early private communion with original cast albums, the later camping of show tunes in piano bars, the still later reformatting of these same songs at the post-Stonewall disco. In addition, through an extended reading of Gypsy, Miller specifies the nature of the call itself, which he locates in the postwar musical's most basic conventions: the contradictory relation between the show and the book, the mimetic tendency of the musical number, the centrality of the female star. If the postwar musical may be called a "gay" genre, Miller demonstrates, this is because its regular but unpublicized work has been to indulge men in the spectacular thrills of a femininity become their own.


  • Place for Us takes the protective colorations of the Broadway musical--its happy-as-the-day-is-long heterosexuality, its promise that wouldn't-it-be-loverly? cravings for happiness will always be satisfied--and strips them away to reveal the gay world that lies beneath, rife with fascinating sublimations and subtexts. The shape of D.A. Miller's argument and the passions that impel it are in perfect accord, which is just what we ask of the best kinds of musical numbers. This book is like a musical score that the genre has yet to catch up with.

    —Margo Jefferson, New York Times


  • D. A. Miller is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Book Details

  • 160 pages
  • 5-1/16 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press