The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life

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9781558490918: The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life

Electroshock. Hysterectomy. Lobotomy. These are only three of the many "cures" to which lesbians have been subjected in this century. How does a society develop such a profound aversion to a particular minority? In what ways do images in the popular media perpetuate cultural stereotypes about lesbians, and to what extent have lesbians been able to subvert and revise those images? This book addresses these and other questions by examining how lesbianism has been represented in American popular culture in the twentieth century and how conflicting ideologies have shaped lesbian experiences and identity.

In the first section, "Inventing the Lesbian," Sherrie A. Inness explores depictions of lesbians in popular texts aimed primarily at heterosexual consumers. She moves from novels of the 1920s to books about life at women's colleges and boarding schools, to such contemporary women's magazines as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Vogue.

In the next section, "Forms of Resistance," Inness probes the ways in which lesbians have refashioned texts intended for a heterosexual audience or created their own narratives. One chapter shows how lesbian readers have reinterpreted the Nancy Drew mysteries, looking at them from a distinctly "queer" perspective. Another chapter addresses the changing portrayal of lesbians in children's books over the past two decades.

The last section, "Writing in the Margins," scrutinizes the extent to which lesbians, themselves a marginalized group, have created a society that relegates some of its own members to the outskirts. Topics include the geographic politics of lesbianism, the complex issue of "passing," and the meaning of butch identity in twentieth-century lesbian culture.

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Review:

This book examines how 20th-century American culture developed the idea of "The Lesbian" as a perverse creature that threatens the natural order of society. Sherrie Inness begins by comparing public perceptions of the menace posed by two lesbian "types": the "mannish woman" of Radclyffe Hall's 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness and the subtly seductive, traditionally beautiful Madame d'Aiguines of the 1926 play The Captive. She then analyzes popular novels of the 1930s that were concerned with those dangerous breeding grounds of lesbianism: women's colleges. She also contextualizes Nancy Drew novels, recent young adult books, and contemporary women's magazines' responses to lesbian chic.

About the Author:

Sherrie A. Inness is assistant professor of English at Miami University and author of Intimate Communities: Representation and Social Transformation in Women's College Fiction, 1895-1910.

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Book Description University of Massachusetts Press, United States, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Electroshock. Hysterectomy. Lobotomy. These are only three of the many cures to which lesbians have been subjected in this century. How does a society develop such a profound aversion to a particular minority? In what ways do images in the popular media perpetuate cultural stereotypes about lesbians, and to what extent have lesbians been able to subvert and revise those images? This book addresses these and other questions by examining how lesbianism has been represented in American popular culture in the twentieth century and how conflicting ideologies have shaped lesbian experiences and identity. Bookseller Inventory # AAN9781558490918

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