Citizen, Invert, Queer

Citizen, Invert, Queer: Lesbianism and War in Early Twentieth-Century Britain

DEBORAH COHLER
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttscw4
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  • Book Info
    Citizen, Invert, Queer
    Book Description:

    Citizen, Invert, Queer illuminates profound transformations in our ideas about female homosexuality. Incorporating cultural histories of prewar women’s suffrage debates, British sexology, women’s work on the home front during World War I, and discussions of interwar literary representations of female homosexuality, Deborah Cohler maps the emergence of lesbian representations in relation to the decline of empire and the rise of eugenics in England.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7337-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. introduction: QUEER NATIONALISMS
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    In June 2002, transgender author and activist Leslie Feinberg circulated a broadsheet at U.S. gay pride parades seeking to incite antiwar activism among participants. “When World War I broke out,” it reads in part, “gay and trans movement leaders backed their own [nation’s] rulers in that bloody inter-imperialist war and it derailed their struggle.”¹ In 1928, an anonymous review of Compton Mackenzie’s novelExtraordinary Womenheadlined “The Vulgarity of Lesbianism” asserted that female homosexuality “is impossible to dismiss . . . quite so confidently in these post-war days of boy-girls and girl-boys.”² Whereas Feinberg critiques the nationalist capitulations of early...

  4. chapter 1 IMPERIALIST CLASSIFICATIONS: SEXOLOGY, DECADENCE, AND NEW WOMEN IN THE 1890s
    (pp. 1-30)

    In 1897, when Havelock Ellis publishedSexual Inversion,the first of his seven-volumeStudies in the Psychology of Sex,England was in the throes of cultural, imperial, and gendered transformations. Almost forty years after the publication ofOn the Origin of Species,amid widespread Malthusian and eugenic appropriations of Darwin’s work; twelve years following the criminalization of “gross indecencies” between men; five years after Sarah Grand and Ouida coined the term “New Woman” to describe the recently educated and independent women of England’s bourgeoisie;¹ and two years before the “disaster” of the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) would inaugurate “over a...

  5. chapter 2 PUBLIC WOMEN, SOCIAL INVERSION: THE WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE DEBATES
    (pp. 31-72)

    In 1891, Eliza Lynn Linton penned a vehemently antisuffrage article for the journal theNineteenth Century.In this piece, she characterizes bourgeois women who leave the home and domestic sphere for the public sphere of politics as poor eugenic subjects. They have not “bred true” and they are “wild,” masculine, and socially abnormal. Comparing the cultural masculinity of these public women with the physiological masculinity of “bearded” women and other sexological deviants, Linton defines suffragists, “the wild women of politics and morals,” as not only unfeminine but also unnatural. Agitation for the vote indicates “a curious inversion of sex”—that...

  6. chapter 3 “A MORE SPLENDID CITIZENSHIP”: PREWAR FEMINISM, EUGENICS, AND SEX RADICALS
    (pp. 73-110)

    At the same time that moderate and militant suffrage leaders were promoting a conservative suffrage sexuality, renegade groups of British male and female advocates of women’s liberation were meeting, writing, and producing very different versions of feminist sexual representations.¹ In the 1910s, birth control, free love, and male homosexuality appeared frequently as topics alongside women’s suffrage in the pages of theFreewoman.Yet any significant discussion of female homosexuality is notably absent among these frank discussions. This chapter explores the paucity of representations of prewar female homosexuality in the face of frequent discussions of male homosexuality and female heterosexuality among...

  7. chapter 4 AROUND 1918: GENDER DEVIANCE, WARTIME NATIONALISM, AND SEXUAL INVERSION ON THE HOME FRONT
    (pp. 111-150)

    In the spring of 1918, as Britain’s military forces were in retreat and the country expected humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany, two judicial events raised rhetorical concern over female sexual representation. In one instance, a novel by pacifist Rose Allatini was quickly and relatively quietly banned under the Defense of the Realm Act (DORA). Written under the pseudonym A. T. Fitzroy,Despised and Rejectedrecounts the wartime trials of a female homosexual and a pacifist homosexual man. The other event was the far more notorious “trial of the century,” in which well-known dancer Maud Allan sued the Independent...

  8. chapter 5 BOY-GIRLS AND GIRL-BOYS: POSTWAR LESBIAN LITERARY REPRESENTATIONS
    (pp. 151-196)

    This book begins with a 1928 review of Compton Mackenzie’s novelExtraordinary Women,entitled “The Vulgarity of Lesbianism.” In the introduction, I pair the review with Leslie Feinberg’s 2001 antiwar polemic to illustrate two twentieth-century instances in which gender and sexual variation are linked to the Great War. Yet the 1928 review does other work as well: it draws discourses of nationalism, gender, and sexuality together with those of sexology, literary value, and women’s suffrage in the production of representations of female homosexuality. The anonymous reviewer complains,

    Twenty years ago such a theme [lesbianism] would have seemedoutréand altogether...

  9. afterword: DRAG KING DREAMS DEFERRED
    (pp. 197-210)

    Citizen, Invert, Queertraces the emergence of coherent public representations of female homosexuality in early twentieth-century British public culture. I argue that discourses of imperialism, eugenics, and gendered citizenship profoundly shaped the emergent representations of female sexuality in general, and homosexuality in specific. Contrary to prior histories of British lesbian subjectivity that privilege medical models of homosexuality,Citizen, Invert, Queersituates the sexological model of “congenital inversion” as one vector among many cultural narratives through which masculinity in women was understood, and was only one of several representations of female homosexual erotics in play in the 1910s and 1920s. Radclyffe...

  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 211-214)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 215-250)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 251-268)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 269-296)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-297)