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Citizen, Invert, Queer

Lesbianism and War in Early Twentieth-Century Britain

2010
Author:

Deborah Cohler

Citizen, Invert, Queer

How the Great War changed British understandings of lesbianism

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.

Citizen, Invert, Queer is a beautifully researched and well written account of the complex historical relations between sexuality and nation in the early 20th century. Whilst this is a meticulous and valuable historical study, it also advances understandings of the difficult interdependencies of race and sexuality in the contemporary moment. A great contribution to scholarship in this area.

Kate O’Riordan, University of Sussex

In late nineteenth-century England, ‘mannish’ women were considered socially deviant but not homosexual. A half-century later, such masculinity equaled lesbianism in the public imagination. How did this shift occur? Citizen, Invert, Queer illustrates that the equation of female masculinity with female homosexuality is a relatively recent phenomenon, a result of changes in national and racial as well as sexual discourses in early twentieth-century public culture.

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. Cohler integrates discussions of the histories of male and female same-sex erotics in her readings of New Woman, representations of male and female suffragists, wartime trials of pacifist novelists and seditious artists, and the interwar infamy of novels such as Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

By examining the shifting intersections of nationalism and sexuality before, during, and after the Great War, this book illuminates profound transformations in our ideas about female homosexuality.

Citizen, Invert, Queer

Deborah Cohler is associate professor of women and gender studies at San Francisco State University.

Citizen, Invert, Queer

Citizen, Invert, Queer is a beautifully researched and well written account of the complex historical relations between sexuality and nation in the early 20th century. Whilst this is a meticulous and valuable historical study, it also advances understandings of the difficult interdependencies of race and sexuality in the contemporary moment. A great contribution to scholarship in this area.

Kate O’Riordan, University of Sussex

By focusing on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and nation, Deborah Cohler strikes out in a new and important direction. Particularly useful is her wariness of investing too much power in the sexological discourses that have been the focus of earlier work; her focus on other discursive elements of the beginning of the twentieth century in Britain is a refreshing corrective.

Sarah E. Chinn, Hunter College, CUNY

This highly readable text, in its careful synthesis of previous scholarly work, literally puts
sexuality in its proper place as only one power relation in a constellation of several others.

Modernism/Modernity

This is an impressive study of public discourses around female same-sex sexuality that shows how much more there is to the story than just sexology. Cohler is certainly persuasive.

American Journal of Sociology

Citizen, Invert, Queer positions itself within the changing landscape of modernist studies, with its emphasis on new modernisms and turns to critical race theory, sexuality studies, queer theory, and transnational feminisms, approaches represented in modernist studies by scholars with whom she is in active dialogue with such as Laura Doan, Siobhan Sommerville, Inderpal Grewal, Margot Backus, and Gay Wachman.

Journal of Lesbian Studies

This expertly researched and well-written text forces us to rethink the importance of nationalism to British women’s sexual and gender identities and will be valuable to scholars of many disciplines.

Journal of British Studies

Citizen, Invert, Queer is a timely read.

Lambda Literary

Citizen, Invert, Queer

UMP blog: Why do we care if Elena Kagan plays softball?

6/16/2010
Why do we care if Elena Kagan plays softball? Are women who smoke cigars lesbians? This isn’t the first time that a political woman has been accused of conduct unbefitting a lady. But what exactly is Elena Kagan being accused of?