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Although Stephen assumes the role of martyr, demanding of God "the right to our existence," one could take the message of the book to be that true lesbians are butch (masculine) and must suffer; femmes (feminine lesbians) are simply confused and can be saved.

A similar situation concludes Ann Bannon's Odd Girl Out (1957) although with an interesting twist. The semibutch Beth is redeemed by Charlie Ayers; Laura, the femme, must suffer the loss of her love and run away to a new life.

One of the characters in Holleran's Dancer from the Dance comments on this traditional resolution of gay fiction: "You would have to make your novel very sad--the world demands that gay life . . . be ultimately sad. . . . They would demand it be ultimately violent and/or tragic."

Through this character, Holleran demonstrates his familiarity with the tradition, signaling the reader that he may subsequently play with this plot device. Thus, near the end of the novel, Sutherland dies of a drug overdose, and the melancholy Malone is last seen swimming out to sea like Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899).

Like Edna, Malone perhaps could not deal with the feelings that had awakened in him. On the other hand, Malone is reminiscent of many folk heroes who are presumed to live on, perhaps to return at a time when they are greatly needed, like King Arthur, Frederick Barbarossa, and Jesus Christ (or even John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley): Rumored sightings of Malone occur long after his disappearance.

Enlightenment Through Folklore in Literature

Just as Malone, Stephen Gordon, Holly, and many other gay and lesbian characters achieve enlightenment in literature, so do countless readers--men and women who feel an affinity with characters like themselves.

The authors' incorporation of folklore into lesbian and gay literature helps readers make this connection. Traditional narratives, familiar language, and comfortable humor demonstrate an insider's awareness that makes these stories ring true.

Joseph P. Goodwin

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literature >> Overview:  Coming Out Stories

The coming out experience is so important to gay men and lesbians that it is a primary focus of much of their literature.

literature >> Overview:  Humor

Like other minority groups, gay men and lesbians have had to develop both a particular sense of humor among themselves in order to make their marginal social status endurable and also a defensive awareness toward the rest of the world in order to disarm their adversaries with laughter.

arts >> Overview:  Pulp Paperbacks and Their Covers

Despite the stereotyping of their cover art and their pathologizing of lesbianism, the American pulp novels of the 1950s and 1960s subverted the social and political prohibitions against homosexual expression during the McCarthy era.

literature >> Bannon, Ann

In a series of five interlinked pulp novels set in Greenwich Village and its homosexual bars in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bannon provides an important record of lesbian life in a period when few women dared speak openly about homosexuality.

literature >> Brown, Rita Mae

Lesbian poet and novelist Rita Mae Brown, best known for the highly successful Rubyfruit Jungle, resists neat categorization.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

literature >> Holleran, Andrew

The pseudonymous Andrew Holleran has placed his homosexuality at the center of his commercially and critically successful novels.

literature >> Maupin, Armistead

A sharp social critic, novelist Armistead Maupin places his gay characters within a large framework of humanity, creating a social history of San Francisco during the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s.

literature >> Stein, Gertrude

In addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, Gertrude Stein was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.

literature >> Tobias, Andrew

Financial writer Andrew Tobias, the author of the classic coming out memoir The Best Little Boy in the World (1973), was elected Treasurer of the Democratic Party in 1999.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


Bergman, David. Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Self-Representation in American Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Browning, Jimmy D. "Maupin's Novels as Folk Artifacts." New York Folklore 19.1-2 (1993): 71-87.

Doty, Alexander. Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993.

Faderman, Lillian. "Lesbian Magazine Fiction in the Early Twentieth Century." Journal of Popular Culture 9 (1978): 800-817.

Goodwin, Joseph P. More Man Than You'll Ever Be: Gay Folklore and Acculturation in Middle America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Radner, Joan N., and Susan S. Lanser. "Strategies of Coding in Women's Cultures." Feminist Messages: Coding in Women's Folk Culture. Joan Newlon Radner, ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.


    Citation Information
    Author: Goodwin, Joseph P.  
    Entry Title: Folklore  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 27, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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