Hurled toward the future: the queer subjunctive in British lesbian photography 1987-1994

Dunster, Flora A B (2019) Hurled toward the future: the queer subjunctive in British lesbian photography 1987-1994. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis establishes ‘the queer subjunctive’ as a mood informing developments in British lesbian photography during the late 1980s and early ’90s. Drawing on theorisations advanced by Raymond Williams and Jan Zita Grover, it posits the subjunctive as a ‘what if?’ mood which coalesces in response to an indicative, or that which is agreed to be socially realistic. This indicative is understood as the conditions of the sex wars. The sex wars spanned the 1980s, policing a line between anti-sex and sex radical feminists and lesbians, and questioning what desires and identifications were ethically aligned with feminism’s aims. The co- occurrence of the sex wars with the formulation of British photo theory, which interrogated photography’s status as ‘the real,’ resulted in a boom of what Grover termed lesbian subjunctive photography: images “hurled toward the future cast ahead of us as visual guideposts to what we hope to become.” These photographs developed a vocabulary which challenged the meaning of the sign ‘lesbian,’ subsequently influencing the development of queer politics and aesthetics.
Through interrelated case studies I consider a set of core questions: how did the sex wars develop in the UK? How was photography crucial to imag(in)ing sex radical identification? How have narrations of feminist and lesbian generations curtailed our understanding of what these signs mean, and who can claim them? And how can underscoring lesbian (and feminist) contributions to queer highlight coalitions, convergences, and solidarities which have become unimaginable in the present? Focusing on the photographers Tessa Boffin and Del LaGrace Volcano, these studies span an extensive and previously un-assembled archive which encompasses magazines and print journalism, theory, performances, and film. Consolidated by the queer subjunctive, the thesis marshals an in-depth evaluation of the relationship between the sex wars, photography, and the reclamation of queer in a British context.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ1101 Women. Feminism
T Technology > TR Photography > TR0624 Applied photography Including artistic, commercial, medical photography, photocopying processes > TR0642 Artistic photography
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2019 07:19
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2022 10:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/88901

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