Looking Like What You Are: Sexual Style, Race, and Lesbian Identity

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Overview

Looks can be deceiving, and in a society where one's status and access to opportunity are largely attendant on physical appearance, the issue of how difference is constructed and interpreted, embraced or effaced, is of tremendous import.

Lisa Walker examines this issue with a focus on the questions of what it means to look like a lesbian, and what it means to be a lesbian but not to look like one. She analyzes the historical production of the lesbian body as marked, and studies how lesbians have used the frequent analogy between racial difference and sexual orientation to craft, emphasize, or deny physical difference. In particular, she explores the implications of a predominantly visible model of sexual identity for the feminine lesbian, who is both marked and unmarked, desired and disavowed.

Walker's textual analysis cuts across a variety of genres, including modernist fiction such as The Well of Loneliness and Wide Sargasso Sea, pulp fiction of the Harlem Renaissance, the 1950s and the 1960s, post-modern literature as Michelle Cliff's Abeng, and queer theory.

In the book's final chapter, "How to Recognize a Lesbian," Walker argues that strategies of visibility are at times deconstructed, at times reinscribed within contemporary lesbian-feminist theory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Libraries serving upper-division undergraduates and graduate students should acquire this work."

-Choice,

"One of the great virtues of Lisa Walker's Looking Like What You Are is the ease with which she is able to personalize theoretical discourses. After being drawn in by her narrative style and her engaging use of anecdote, the reader will discover an elegantly written, thoroughly substantiated, and deeply convincing argument about the role of visibility in twentieth-century identity politics."

-Bonnie Zimmerman,San Diego State University

"Both a remarkable feat of conscientious scholarship and a pleasure to read, Looking Like What You Are will prove of great interest to scholars of gender, race/ethnicity, class, and sexuality alike."

-Renée C. Hoogland,University of Nijmegan

"Subtle, lucid, and stylish, Walker's book offers a provocative and challenging model for living and writing in 'sustained contradiction.'"

-Elizabeth Meese,University of Alabama

Booknews
Walker (English, U. of Southern Maine) focuses on the question of what it means to look like a lesbian, and what it means to be a lesbian but not to look like one. She analyzes the historical production of the lesbian body as marked, and studies how lesbians have used the frequent analogy between racial difference and sexual orientation to craft, emphasize, or deny physical difference. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Lisa Walker is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern Maine.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: In/visible Differences 1
1 Martyred Butches and Impossible Femmes: Radclyffe Hall and the Modern Lesbian 21
2 Debutante in Harlem: Blair Niles's Strange Brother 58
3 Lesbian Pulp in Black and White 103
4 Strategies of Identification in Three Narratives of Female Development 139
5 How to Recognize a Lesbian: The Cultural Politics of Looking Like What You Are 182
Epilogue 211
Notes 215
Works Cited 251
Index 267
About the Author 281
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