Disappearing heteronormativity? The challenges of/to masculinity in lesbian-themed American paperbacks of the 1950s and early 1960s
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In the two decades following World War II, the retail of books in North America migrated from bookstores to places of regular public footfall. Produced cheaply, paperbacks were displayed with their covers facing outward. Sensationalist and often salacious in content, notwithstanding their superficial adherence to the mores of the time regarding sexuality and gender, cheap novels pushed the envelope of public contact with these issues. Lesbian-themed novels from this period have had critical attention from feminist, lesbian, and queer theorists, and from the point of view of female readers. The huge numbers of male readers have been dismissed as voyeurs and masturbatory fantasists. This thesis firstly puts the books back in the hands of the casual readers who bought them when they were originally published. These readers were presented with a space in which masculinity and heteronormativity was and is still negotiable, experimental, and not appropriated by a single type of body, sexuality, or mode of relationship. This thesis then examines masculinity in both male and female characters in novels by Lora Sela, Vin Packer, Ann Bannon, Valerie Taylor, Claire Morgan, and Randy Salem, especially how it is manifested in heteroemulative couplehood, showing how in an age of “masculinity crisis” the grip on society of heteronormativity, as imagined in these novels, was tenuous. These novels are put forward as being relevant to twenty-first-century appraisal of gender and normativity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2028-03-03
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 3rd March 2028
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