Bodies, books and the bucolic : Englishness, literature and sexuality, 1918-1939
The hypothesis this thesis tests is that interwar hegemonic discourses of Englishness located it as originating in the heterosexual bond between a masculine national subject and a feminine nature/landscape. Discursively, this left little space for women to insert themselves in to such a cultural formation. However, a paradox of this heterosexualising cultural matrix may have been to give a voice to lesbian subjectivity, since If 'women' might not be English, could lesbians be? If national land was figured as feminine, and women desired identification with their country-as-land, to become English might mean for some women that they should become lesbian. In order to explore this, three main questions are examined. Firstly, to what extent did the dominant discourse of the rural in the interwar period define 'Englishness' as masculine and 'Nature' as feminine? Secondly, if women were excluded from this discursive heterosexual relationship, can it be seen paradoxically to have opened up a space for alternative sexualities to emerge? If lesbianism were an instance of the latter, then what writing strategies were adopted in order to articulate a relationship between Englishness and lesbianism? Thirdly, what can censored and other literary texts of the period reveal about the relations between such an English masculine national subject, the meaning and powers attributed to literature, and forbidden sexualities and subjectivities? In its analysis of the relationship between national identity, geographical location and sexuality, this thesis contributes to studies of England and Englishness through the addition of the concept of 'sexuality' to an understanding of their construction. It also contributes to lesbian and gay critical theory by examining the national processes which impinge of the construction of the homosexual subject. Beyond that, the importance of the materiality of the locations offered to different subjectivities shows how national identifies are both enabled and limited by these same locations.