A Publishing History of Queer British Fiction, 1940-1970
From 1940-1970 major British publishing firms published hundreds of works of fiction featuring queer characters or plotlines, despite existing in a climate that one interviewee in Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London (2005) describes as the ‘intolerant period’. Making use of rich archival sources held at the University of Reading, the Harry Ransom Center, and elsewhere, this project will create a publishing history of post-war queer fiction to trace what Robert Darnton calls ‘the life-cycle of the book’—the actors and networks responsible for the creation, marketing and reception of these works. The project will consider questions such as: What role did queer publishers play in shaping their lists? How were these books positioned within a marketplace dominated by public libraries with conservative stocking policies? Were they marketed to appeal to a particular readership? What was their popular and critical reception? How did literary agents manage queer clients? How did the Wolfenden Report (1957) affect publishers’ decisions? More broadly the project will consider the ways in which post-war publishing exploited the ambiguous position of queerness in British society. Authors under investigation include Maureen Duffy, Martyn Goff, Francis King, Rosemary Manning, Mary Renault, and Denton Welch; transatlantic networks will also be considered, including the works of James Baldwin and Gore Vidal.