This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

'A Participant in the World': Identity, Change, and the Closet in Angels in America




Blair, Nancy

Type of Degree





Tony Kushner’s Angels in America consists of two plays that examine the lives of a group of gay men living in New York City during the mid-1980s. Kushner revised Perestroika, the second play, in 1995, and made further changes for the HBO film adaptation of his plays in 2003. All three versions end with an epilogue that features all of the surviving gay characters except Joe Pitt, a married, Mormon lawyer. Most critics argue that Joe is excluded because he is unredeemable or simply unimportant, but it can also be argued that he is especially important because Kushner revised this character more than any other. Through a critical lens combining John McGowan’s discussion of situated freedom and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s analysis of gay identity, we can see that Kushner also revises his views on identity, the possibility of change, and the necessity of the gay closet, with the result of idealizing a narrow and exclusive gay community.