Student Review: The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing

November 3, 2011

Editor: Hugh Stevens

Edition: First

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Pages: 2

Price: £45.00 and £17.99

ISBN 9780521888448 and 716574

Cambridge Companions are excellent resources in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of complex theoretical frameworks, and this book is no exception.

Although for most students textbooks are points of reference only, this companion will be valuable for its introduction of a complex subject area and exploration of key concepts and theories.

The book's aim is to provide the reader with a multifaceted approach to a range of debates circulating in gay and lesbian literature. Editor Hugh Stevens manages to achieve this without overcomplication or confusion, via a selection of essays that support each previous chapter, thereby developing coherency for its intended audience.

Perhaps Stevens' most effective technique is his chronological approach, which creates foregrounding regarding this subject area. The textbook begins with a timeline introducing some of the key gay literature of earlier eras and finishes in contemporary society. Using a literary structure in this manner allows the chronological approach to resonate throughout each critical essay.

Stevens shows dexterity in his approach; although they are written by different academics, each essay is fluid in that it not only introduces a topic but continues the themes present in the previous chapter. The essays demonstrate the complexity of gay and lesbian writing, and consider how they have been received and understood by heterosexual critics and publishers.

Chapters on surrounding concepts, such as transgender literature, queer theory and queer cross-gender collaboration in writing, are also useful. Authors raise and discuss ideas, but no absolute answers are delivered, allowing readers to ascertain their own meaning.

Throughout, readers are presented with core ideas that further the contributors' arguments as essays investigate movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, the Bloomsbury Group and the gathering of homosexual writers in New York. The literary and emotional relationships within these groups are depicted, and the influence the movements have had on wider society is explored. The use of concrete examples allows abstract ideas to be conceptualised by the reader.

Overall, this text provides a thorough introduction to the literature of gay and lesbian authors, spanning centuries. It is an excellent companion for gay and lesbian literature studies, although not for seeking detailed information relating to specific writers.

Who is it for? Gender studies students.

Presentation: Discursive and varied.

Would you recommend it? Yes, particularly as a prelude to in-depth studies. It is useful as both a point of reference and as a broad introduction to the subject area.

Highly recommended

Violence against Women: Myths, Facts, Controversies

Author: Walter S. DeKeseredy

Edition: First

Publisher: University of Toronto Press

Pages: 192

Price: £14.99

ISBN 9781442603998

In aiming to dispel the mythology surrounding violence against women, this text posits a strong and defiant argument that gender-based violence is very much a part of contemporary society. Walter DeKeseredy provides political, social, economic and cross-cultural examples of abuse towards females, and outlines how modern society helps to foster a negative attitude towards females. It is a compelling and compassionate sociological text that makes use of a particularly strong framework.

Recommended

Being and Becoming Visible: Women, Performance and Visual Culture

Editors: Olga M. Mesropova and Stacey Weber-Feve

Edition: First

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Pages: 288

Price: £36.00 and £18.00

ISBN 9780801894947 and 94954

The question of what it is to be female in modern society is often represented in visual imagery and cultural media, and many of those representations are created by women who originate from diverse cultural backgrounds. This text considers the female experience in many planes of life, encouraging a feminist-centred approach. Artists, photographers, single mothers, academics and volunteers are celebrated, and their corresponding social or economic struggles to be visible are highlighted. This book is suitable for students with a keen interest in women's studies and for those writing academically on contemporary gender issues.

Recommended

The Future of Feminism

Author: Sylvia Walby

Edition: First

Publisher: Polity Press

Pages: 224

Price: £50.00 and £15.99

ISBN 9780745647562 and 47579

Many people consider Western society to be in a "post-feminist" era, but Sylvia Walby's book challenges this notion and hammers home the point that feminism is not dead, although it has transformed in the way in which it operates. The text presents statistical data in making its argument that feminism seems less prominent because its policies are gradually becoming intrinsic in societies around the world. However, some readers may find that the book's heavily statistical and political orientation makes it challenging to fully engage with its arguments.

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