This introduction sets forth the book’s central argument and establishes the historical, theoretical, and critical context for its case studies. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modern sexual identities emerged into view while at the same time being rendered invisible, as in Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial on charges of gross indecency and the 1928 obscenity trial of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. Early stage representations of homosexuality were typically coded or censored, yet the majority of the works considered in this book were highly visible in their subversions of conventional gender and sexual norms. Queer readings of these plays and performances establish connections across high and popular cultural domains, demonstrating that some of traditional modernism’s perceived failures, rejects, and outliers were modernist through their sexual dissidence. These insights in turn contribute to a more precise understanding of how modernity was mediated and how such mediations enacted change.
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