Disease and Destiny in Plague Literature from Early Modern to Postmodern Times
Chapter Six: How to Survive a Plague. Angels in America
← 133 | 134 → CHAPTER SIX
Angels in America
Influenza was the last of the classical pestilences; AIDS, both unpredicted and unpredictable within the framework of the old nosology, is the first of the postmodern plagues.
—MIRKO GRMEK, THE HISTORY OF AIDS
“Nor am I so obstinate and foolish as to imagine that because I am master of my own will, I can control fortune of which I am not master.”
—A SYRACUSE LEADER (THUCYDIDES, THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, 4.64)
“It’s 1986 and there’s a plague, half my friends are dead and I’m only thirty-one …”
—PRIOR WALTER, IN ANGELS IN AMERICA
Early in 1981 a lot of young, previously healthy men were dying of mysterious causes, especially in New York and San Francisco. For the most part they were homosexual men, and before it was named AIDS, the unexpected, new, and swiftly fatal affliction that visited America in the latter twentieth century became known as the gay plague.1 By 1985 AIDS had reached two Off-Broadway theaters. Larry ← 134 | 135 → Kramer’s The Normal Heart opened at the Public Theater in April, and in May William S. Hoffman’s As Is, which the Circle Repertory Company had staged in March, would transfer to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Numerous more AIDS texts would follow, even as the plague continued increasingly to devastate primarily, but hardly exclusively, the gay community. While the cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HIV, had been determined in 1983, no hope for effective...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.