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.
--This text refers to the
From Library Journal
Since the 1970s, lesbian images in popular culture have increased steadily. Citing specific literary and cinematic works, these two authors provide criticism and analysis of lesbian identity as it has evolved in the mass media. They also share the view that more exposure is not always better, providing ample evidence that much of the information fed to the public through literature and film is a highly stylized, narrow depiction of lesbian life, produced so as not to upset the heterosexual majority. Hoogland (lesbian studies, Univ. of Nijmegan, Netherlands) offers a detailed analysis of such literary works as Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar as well as the contemporary Hollywood films Basic Instinct and Bitter Moon. She presents each chapter as a separate essay, blending Freudian psychoanalytic and contemporary feminist theories in her rigorous analysis of these works. Hoogland's writing is dense and academic, clearly targeting queer theorists and other feminist scholars. The Lesbian Menace is a more readable text yet less focused. Inness (English, Miami Univ.) breaks her thesis into three parts: Inventing the Lesbian, Forms of Resistance, and Writing in the Margins. In this fashion, she covers such issues as the perception that women's colleges are "nest[s] of perversity," the image of the lesbian in children's books and popular magazine literature, and the way in which lesbian readers interpret narratives to create a lesbian subtext in such classics as the Nancy Drew mystery series. Hoogland's work belongs in academic queer studies collections, while Inness's would also do well in large public and academic literature collections.?Karen Duff, Boston P.L.
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