All rooms are equipped with an overhead projector
Rooms C, D, E, F, G and H (H only on Saturday): slide projector (framed slides, carrousel. There are extra carrousels available to set up your presentation in advance)
Rooms C, D, M, N, O, U and Committee Room 2: beamer to connect your laptop. You have to bring you own laptop. (If you want to use your Apple notebook, please contact us, as it may be incompatible.)
Rooms C, T and U: VCR
|Decadent Seducer or Mannish Woman?: Class and Representations of Lesbianism in the British Popular Press 1910s-1939|
|Little attention has been paid by historians to discourses of lesbian sexuality in early twentieth century popular culture. Before World War Two the subject of sex between women was generally treated euphemistically or indirectly in the popular press. This paper will survey interwar newspapers to trace the changing ideas and language used to refer to sex between women and examine the relationship of these ideas to middle-brow anxieties about lesbianism.
The popular Sunday newspapers initially evoked ideas from the late nineteenth century in representing lesbian desire rather than mobilising newer models. It was the femme fatale of fin-de-siecle decadence – the sexually powerful, often predatory woman – who began to signal lesbianism in certain contexts; as a parallel figure to Oscar Wilde, or as a seductive wife-stealer.
The paper will argue that these lesbian ‘types’ borrowed extensively from contemporary middle-class imagining of lesbianism. Female homosexuality was largely represented as another aspect of upper- and middle-class sexual vice, or as a threat within urban bohemian milieux, rather than having much to do with everyday working- or lower middle-class life. Working-class communities themselves appeared largely immune from this newly-discovered sexual deviance, according to the popular press.
The longevity of these representations challenges historians’ assumptions that modern lesbian identity was formed in the first place in response to the sexological category of gender inversion, the mannish woman, developed in Britain by Havelock Ellis. The idea of the masculine female invert was a late and minor theme in mass media reporting. Even the coverage of The Well of Loneliness trial in 1928 did not inevitably emphasise mannishness as a feature of lesbianism, while working-class cross-dressing women, even “female husbands”, continued to be presented as an entertaining diversion rather than as sexually transgressive before the Second World War. Popular journalism was resistant to sexological understandings of love between women well into the mid-twentieth century. Older notions of sexual deviance derived from late nineteenth century “decadence”, class prejudices and popular entertainment, were more significant in shaping initial ideas about the lesbian.