Cover image for The lesbian menace : ideology, identity, and the representation of lesbian life
The lesbian menace : ideology, identity, and the representation of lesbian life
Inness, Sherrie A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, Mass. : University of Massachusetts Press, [1997]

Physical Description:
xi, 256 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1450 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS228.L47 I56 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An examination of the perception of lesbians in American culture, this work focuses on the subversion of both stereotyped representations and some straight texts. It is divided into three principal parts - inventing the lesbian, forms of resistance, and writing in the margins.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Since the 1970s, lesbian images in popular culture have increased steadily. Citing specific literary and cinematic works, these two authors provide criticism and analysis of lesbian identity as it has evolved in the mass media. They also share the view that more exposure is not always better, providing ample evidence that much of the information fed to the public through literature and film is a highly stylized, narrow depiction of lesbian life, produced so as not to upset the heterosexual majority. Hoogland (lesbian studies, Univ. of Nijmegan, Netherlands) offers a detailed analysis of such literary works as Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar as well as the contemporary Hollywood films Basic Instinct and Bitter Moon. She presents each chapter as a separate essay, blending Freudian psychoanalytic and contemporary feminist theories in her rigorous analysis of these works. Hoogland's writing is dense and academic, clearly targeting queer theorists and other feminist scholars. The Lesbian Menace is a more readable text yet less focused. Inness (English, Miami Univ.) breaks her thesis into three parts: Inventing the Lesbian, Forms of Resistance, and Writing in the Margins. In this fashion, she covers such issues as the perception that women's colleges are "nest[s] of perversity," the image of the lesbian in children's books and popular magazine literature, and the way in which lesbian readers interpret narratives to create a lesbian subtext in such classics as the Nancy Drew mystery series. Hoogland's work belongs in academic queer studies collections, while Inness's would also do well in large public and academic literature collections.‘Karen Duff, Boston P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This well-written, provocative analysis addresses the construction of lesbian identity in literature and popular culture from the 1920s to the present. Inness (Miami Univ., Ohio) is particularly interested in "how popular texts help constitute an image of the lesbian that is aimed primarily at heterosexual consumers, although homosexual readers can also read these texts and carry away very different messages than those intended." To this end, the author analyzes the depiction of lesbians in children's literature and in contemporary women's magazines, as well as in Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness and Edouard Bourdet's The Captive. Particularly insightful are two chapters, one on the ways in which popular fiction between the two world wars established a presumed linkage between women's colleges and lesbianism and another on the marginalization of butch identity. The major strength of this work is Inness's attempt to bring the same level of critical analysis to lesbian culture's depiction of itself as she does to popular culture's representation of lesbian experience. A fine addition to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's The Epistemology of the Closet (1990), Julia Penelope's Call Me Lesbian: Lesbian Lives, Lesbian Theory (1992), and renee hoogland's Lesbian Configurations (CH, Oct'97). All academic libraries serving upper-division undergraduates and above. L. Winters; College of Saint Elizabeth

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
The Lesbian Menacep. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 Inventing the Lesbianp. 11
1 Who's Afraid of Stephen Gordon? The Lesbian in the United States Popular Imagination of the 1920sp. 13
2 "Malevolent, neurotic, and tainted" The Lesbian Menace in Popular Women's College Fictionp. 33
3 "They're here, they're flouncy, don't worry about them" Depicting Lesbians in Popular Women's Magazines, 1965-1995p. 52
2 Forms of Resistancep. 77
4 Is Nancy Drew Queer? Popular Reading Strategies for the Lesbian Readerp. 79
5 "Candy-coated cyanide" Children's Books and Lesbian Imagesp. 101
3 Writing in the Marginsp. 129
6 Lost in Space Queer Geography and the Politics of Locationp. 131
7 To Pass or Not to Pass Thoughts on Passing and Lesbian Identitiesp. 158
8 GI Joes in Barbie Land Recontextualizing the Meaning of Butch in Twentieth-Century Lesbian Culturep. 178
Notesp. 205
Works Citedp. 225
Indexp. 247