Out on Stage


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Lesbian and Gay Theater in the Twentieth Century

Alan Sinfield

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Price: $39.00
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This intriguing and authoritative book tracks stage representations of lesbians and gay men from Oscar Wilde to the present day. Alan Sinfield argues that, despite and because of censorship and discretion, twentieth-century theater has been viewed as a gay space. When we attune ourselves to the idioms of the different decades, theater emerges as an important place for the circulation of images of homosexuality and for the exploration of concepts of gender and sexuality.
Sinfield examines scores of British and American plays and playwrights, including works by Wilde, Maugham, Coward, Hellman, O'Neill, Rattigan, Williams, Le Roi Jones, and Orton. He locates plays in the contexts in which they were produced and viewed, whether it be West End and Broadway or more bohemian little club theaters, Off-Broadway, and fringe. He discusses many women writers—from Djuna Barnes and Agatha Christie to Lorraine Hansberry and Caryl Churchill—and analyzes the implications of homosexuality in their work. He explains why in the 1950s British and American plays began to differ in their representations of gays, how the 1960s produced an exuberant cultivation of "kinky" humor and gay political activism in theaters, and what impact AIDS has had on theatrical productions. Sinfield concludes with provocative questions about the direction of new theater writing, asserting that representations in theater continue to challenge notions of our sexual potential.

Alan Sinfield is professor of English literature at the University of Sussex and author of five important books on modern literary culture. 

A selection of the Stage and Screen Book Club

"An in-depth, original look at stage representations of lesbians and gay men from Oscar Wilde to the present day. And what a wild ride it is."—Alan W. Petrucelli, Cape Cod Journal

"Sinfield has produced the most thorough critical history of queer representation on the stage to date. Sinfield's coverage of both lesbian and gay male theater and his seamless discussion of both British and U.S. theater surpasses John M. Clum's Acting Gay. . . . Essential for academic libraries supporting queer cultural studies and highly recommended for those supporting upper-level undergraduate and graduate studies in modern drama."—Library Journal

"Out on Stage is likely to prove a seminal work, the first turning (as it were) of the sod in a very large field which has been allowed to lay fallow for far too long."—Peter Burton, Gay Times

“An interesting book with illuminating insights into how post-war opera at home and abroad was organised.”—John Willmer, The Pink Paper

“Sinfield aims less to identify gay and lesbian playwrights than to provide cogent, deep representations of gay concepts in theater from Victorian times to the present. . . . Sinfield’s contrastive study takes readers from the closeted, naughtily gay-referenced British drama of the late 19th century to the more openly gay drama, both British and American, pervasive in theater following WW II.”—Choice

“An entertaining , highly readable history of lesbian and gay theatre. . . . Invaluable and deserving of larger audiences than just college professors and their students. . . . Full of interesting insights into the ways in which gay and lesbian people perceive themselves as evinced by the ways in which they’re portrayed on the stage.”—Kevin J. Harty, Gay & Lesbian Review

“In this compendious book, Alan Sinfield explores the relationship between theatre and homosexuality during the 20th century. . . Out on Stage is always interesting, always provocative and constantly challenges its readers.”—Aleks Sierz, Times Higher Education Supplement

“An important addition to the growing body of work in lesbian and gay theatre studies which emerges, to date, as the most comprehensive account of twentieth-century developments. Further, Sinfield’s revisionist approach to pre-liberationist theatre and drama does not seek to critique such work in the earlier part of the century from what are frequently inappropriate contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality.”—John Deeney, New Theatre Quarterly

“Sinfield has created a veritable encyclopedia describing the appearances of people with same-sex interest on London and New York stages. . . . The author offers historical context for these character types based on the theater and its interaction with shifts in perceptions regarding gender and sexuality. . . . The scope and depth of this book makes this the work for teachers and students of sexuality and popular culture.”—The Committee on Lesbian and Gay History

ISBN: 9780300191561
Publication Date: January 1, 2000
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9