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Title: Reading the lives between the lines : lesbian literature and oral history in post-war Britain
Author: Murphy, Amy Tooth
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2013
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In existing scholarship of twentieth-century British lesbian history the post-war period has been largely overlooked. Whereas the interwar period and the 1970s and 1980s have garnered much critical interest as crucial loci of lesbian identity formation, the post-war period has been obscured between the two. What work does exist has focused almost exclusively on the creation of lesbian public spaces and lesbian communities. This has been to the exclusion of research into lesbian home and private life, and has also served to obscure experiences of closeted or isolated women. The critical focus on the interwar period in particular has also been facilitated and corroborated by lesbian literary studies, which has used the modernist movement as the backbone for the creation of a lesbian literary canon. This has been to the obscuration of lesbian literature of the post-war period. Furthermore, this academic bias has overlooked the significance of the cultural value of such literature by failing to acknowledge or investigate what lesbians in post-war Britain were actually reading. This thesis positions itself at the intersection of these research gaps. Employing an interdisciplinary approach this project argues for the greater inclusion of post-war literature and post-war lesbian lives in scholarly investigation. Through close textual analysis of a range of post-war lesbian literature and oral history interviews conducted by the author, this thesis presents insights into the minutiae of lesbian life and into the roots of lesbian identity formation within this period. To situate itself within existing historiography this thesis takes as its starting point the lesbian magazine, Arena Three (1964-71), undertaking an analysis of the magazine’s book review column in order to build a picture of the post-war lesbian reader. Following on from this, close textual analyses of lesbian pulp fiction and original oral history transcripts are used to assess representations of domesticity. Specifically the concepts of hetero-domesticity and homo-domesticity are developed and employed to investigate lesbian identities as they existed within both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Graham Dawson’s oral history theory of ‘composure’ is used to examine how lesbian narrators are successful or unsuccessful in incorporating experiences of hetero-domesticity into wider lesbian narratives. This framework is similarly employed to investigate the ways in which homo-domestic experiences can assist lesbian narrators to achieve composure. Lastly oral history reminiscences of reading in the post-war period are analysed in order to assess the role that literature played, both in lesbian identity formation and in facilitating narrators’ journeys into wider lesbian social worlds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; PR English literature