Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity (Hardback)Lisa Duggan (author)
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Situating this story alongside simultaneously circulating lynching narratives (and its resistant versions, such as those of Memphis antilynching activist Ida B. Wells) Duggan reveals how stories of sex and violence were crucial to the development of American modernity. While careful to point out the differences between the public reigns of terror that led to many lynchings and the rarer instances of the murder of one woman by another privately motivated woman, Duggan asserts that dominant versions of both sets of stories contributed to the marginalization of African Americans and women while solidifying a distinctly white, male, heterosexual form of American citizenship. Having explored the role of turn-of-the-century print media-and in particular their tendency toward sensationalism-Duggan moves next to a review of sexology literature and to novels, most notably Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. Sapphic Slashers concludes with two appendices, one of which presents a detailed summary of Ward's murder, the trial, and Mitchell's eventual institutionalization. The other presents transcriptions of letters exchanged between the two women prior to the crime.
Combining cultural history, feminist and queer theory, narrative analysis, and compelling storytelling, Sapphic Slashers provides the first history of the emergence of the lesbian in twentieth-century mass culture.
Publisher: Duke University Press
Number of pages: 328
Weight: 608 g
Dimensions: 236 x 162 x 28 mm
"Duggan seamlessly combines cultural theory with analyses of material conditions and demonstrates a breathtaking command of American cultural institutions-the mass press, the judicial systems, the medical literature. The book is not only smart about the interconnections between gender, sex, race, class, and nation, but is also lucid, making a good read."-Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, author of Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community
"In this stunningly coherent and compelling account of the development of 'American modernity,' Duggan captures our interest with the sensational tale of lesbian love murder but then insists that we read this tale through turn-of-the-century debates over racial violence and against the backdrop of the medicalization of homosexuality. Sapphic Slashers has 'classic' written all over it."-Judith Halberstam, author of Female Masculinity
"What Duggan does in this original and moving book is take a murder case from 1890's Memphis and make of it a prism through which to illuminate American modernity. Her method depends less on an account of the murder or of the judicial procedure that followed it than on an analysis of the many narratives-of lesbian love and sex and madness-that the case occasioned. Juxtaposing these narratives to narratives of lynching, Duggan produces a tour-de-force of historical understanding."-Henry Abelove, Wesleyan University