When We Were Modern: Lesbian Literature and Aesthetic Diversity in the 20th Century

Call for Contributions

Collection edited by Jaime Harker and Julie R. Enszer

How do we locate lesbian writers and lesbian characters in popular, middlebrow, and highbrow fiction in the 20th century? What meanings can we make of lesbian identities and lesbian communities from this fiction across the century?

Considering lesbian writers and lesbian characters across the 20th century challenges the narrative of the closet that emerges in 1970 and continues today. The apparent massive coming out in the 1970s and 1980s was in relationship to a closet that was constructed simultaneously. In the 1950s, Elizabeth Bishop did not live like she was in the closet. During the 1910s and 1920s, Amy Lowell was not in the closet. In 1946, when Jo Sinclair won the Harper & Brothers Prize for her novel, The Wasteland, the lesbian character central to the novel was not excised, nor was she in the closet.

When We Were Modern: Lesbian Literature and Aesthetic Diversity in the 20th Century will explore how literature by lesbians with open lesbian characters circulated widely. The political and material realities for lesbians during the 20th century, including the openness of the 20s and 30s for lesbians and the constriction of the 50s and early 60s, are still largely unmapped for lesbians and lesbian literature.  And the influence of those lesbians on writers of the 70s and beyond has also not been investigated; what happens when we read more contemporary lesbian writers as part of an ongoing, diverse lesbian tradition? This anthology will begin to construct a new genealogy of lesbian literary traditions in the 20th century.

Exploring the historical, biographical, and material aspects of lesbian literature and aesthetic diversity, the editors invite proposals for contributions by September 30th with full papers by January 30th. Email proposals to Jaime Harker, jlharker@olemiss.edu <mailto:jlharker@olemiss.edu>, and Julie R. Enszer, JulieREnszer@gmail.com <mailto:JulieREnszer@gmail.com>.

While we are in discussion with editors, this collection is not yet under contract.

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