Fashioning Sapphism

The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture

Laura Doan

Columbia University Press

Fashioning Sapphism

Google Preview

Pub Date: January 2001

ISBN: 9780231110075

288 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£26.95

Pub Date: January 2001

ISBN: 9780231533836

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£26.95

Fashioning Sapphism

The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture

Laura Doan

Columbia University Press

The highly publicized obscenity trial of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness (1928) is generally recognized as the crystallizing moment in the construction of a visible modern English lesbian culture, marking a great divide between innocence and deviance, private and public, New Woman and Modern Lesbian. Yet despite unreserved agreement on the importance of this cultural moment, previous studies often reductively distort our reading of the formation of early twentieth-century lesbian identity, either by neglecting to examine in detail the developments leading up to the ban or by framing events in too broad a context against other cultural phenomena.

Fashioning Sapphism locates the novelist Radclyffe Hall and other prominent lesbians—including the pioneer in women's policing, Mary Allen, the artist Gluck, and the writer Bryher—within English modernity through the multiple sites of law, sexology, fashion, and literary and visual representation, thus tracing the emergence of a modern English lesbian subculture in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Drawing on extensive new archival research, the book interrogates anew a range of myths long accepted without question (and still in circulation) concerning, to cite only a few, the extent of homophobia in the 1920s, the strategic deployment of sexology against sexual minorities, and the rigidity of certain cultural codes to denote lesbianism in public culture.
A fine contribution to the growing body of scholarship on the history of lesbian lives, and the image of lesbians in modern society. Juliet Sarkessian, Lambda Book Report
Introduction: "It's Hard to Tell Them Apart Today''
1 The Mythic Moral Panic: Radclyffe Hall and the New Genealogy
2 "That Nameless Vice Between Women'': Lesbianism and the Law
3 Outraging the Decencies of Nature? Uniformed Female Bodies
4 Passing Fashions: Reading Female Masculinities in the 1920s
5 Lesbian Writers and Sexual Science: A Passage to Modernity?
6 Portrait of a Sapphist? Fixing the Frame of Reference

About the Author

Laura Doan is professor of English at SUNY Geneseo. She has edited The Lesbian Postmodern (Columbia) as well as, with Lucy Bland, Sexology in Culture: Labeling Bodies and Desires and Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science.