Laughing lesbians: Camp, spectatorship, and citizenship

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Title: Laughing lesbians: Camp, spectatorship, and citizenship
Author: Steck, Rachel Kinsman, 1974-
Abstract: This study, set in the context of the feminist sex wars, explores the performances of Holly Hughes, Carmelita Tropicana, and Split Britches throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The purpose of this study is to better understand the implications of a specific style of lesbian comedic performance, found at the WOW Café and defined here as lesbian camp, throughout a contentious era in feminist politics. The motivating questions for this study are: How can a performance inspire an activated spectatorship? How have lesbian comedic performance practices provoked feminist theory and practice? Chapter II defines lesbian camp and attempts to trace a dialogue among lesbian performance critics and academics ruminating over lesbian camp and its existence. It also explores lesbian camp's relationship to drag and butch-femme as well as how lesbian camp functions within specific performances of Holly Hughes, Split Britches, and Carmelita Tropicana. Chapter III argues that it is the very element of lesbian camp that brings forth the potential for an activated spectatorship. It is a chaotic, unstable environment that exposes and disassembles deep-seated fears, ideals, and practices seemingly inherent, although pragmatically constructed, to our communities and cultures throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. It presents a climate of resistance through the disruption of identificatory practices. This, in turn, provokes an activated spectatorship. Chapter IV examines the effects these artists had on the larger stage of the feminist sex wars and culture wars. Holly Hughes, for example, became a national figure, defunded from the National Endowment for the Arts due to her subject of the queer body, then deemed obscene and pornographic. Split Britches were popularized by feminists in the academy not only for their creative techniques but also for their (de)construction of butch-femme coupling. Carmelita Tropicana brought drag to a whole new level with incorporation of male and female drag into her hybrid performances.
Description: xi, 158 p. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
Date: 2010-03

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