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Lesbian pulp fiction and community formation 1950-1969

Stratton, Sarah Lou (2013) Lesbian pulp fiction and community formation 1950-1969. In: University of Birmingham Graduate School Research Poster Conference 2013 , 12th June 2013, University of Birmingham. (Unpublished)



The study of lesbian pulp fiction is an integral aspect of working against what Adrienne Rich calls ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality.’ Society has a tendency to assume an individual’s identity in heterosexual terms: assuming that a community is comprised of heteropatriarchal family structures. Using alternative definitions of community, my research investigates the formation of lesbian community around the readership of lesbian pulp fiction and lesbian periodicals published between 1950 and 1970. As a proto-political group, the lesbian communities that formed in the United States were able to access a sense of self and community – in part – because of lesbian publications.

Through sociological and historical methods, I investigate both historical communities and the portrayal of lesbian community in genre fiction. In order to do so, I have consulted sociological texts for a working definition of ‘community.’ As these definitions lack cohesion and assume heterosexuality in all members of society, I have consulted the work of lesbian separatist groups in the 1970s. These groups – such as The Furies and Radicalesbians – and feminist sociologists and philosophers produced work that helped to question heteropatriarchal definitions of ‘community.’ While an anachronistic approach, using 1970s feminism and subsequent Queer Theory into a redefinition of community is vital to counteracting compulsory heterosexuality.

The objective of my research is to incorporate Queer and Feminist (and ‘queer feminist’) concepts of community and individuality into the analysis of Lesbian Pulp Fiction. While anachronistic to a historical study of 1950s and 1960s lesbian communities, using more contemporary theories would address the role that lesbian pulps once held in lesbian community formation. Moreover contemporary feminist and Queer Theory could figure the analysis of how lesbian pulp fiction is read both inside and outside present-day lesbian communities.

Thus far, I have found that the definition of community need not adhere to the confines of geographical space. Through epistolary contact and mass-produced publication --lesbians reading pulp fiction and lesbian-produced magazines (such as The Ladder)--allowed for individuals to be part of a community. For the purposes of my study, community has come to mean: a network of individuals who provide emotional guidance and support for others; a group that helps the individual feel less isolated and alone in the face of adversity. Using this definition, I will be able to conduct further textual analysis on the portrayal of lesbian community and the characterization of lesbian identity in my primary texts. Additionally, I will be able to investigate the function of space (or lack of space) in lesbian pulp fiction and other lesbian narrative disseminated during the 1950s and 1960s.

Type of Work:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Additional Information:

Research Supervisor: Dr Danielle Fuller

Date:June 2013
Series/Collection Name:Prizewinners from the Graduate School Research Poster Conference 2013
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Related URLs:
Copyright Status:This poster is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this poster must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged.
Copyright Holders:The Author
ID Code:1731

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