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The ‘curious effects’ of acting: homosexuality, theatre and female impersonation at the University of Cambridge, 1900-1939

Janes

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Abstract

The University of Cambridge educated a significant proportion of Britain’s elite in the early twentieth century. The homosocial environment of the colleges was similar in many ways to that of the single-sex public boarding schools which many of the undergraduates had attended. Student theatre was a popular activity and because such shows were acted by single-sex ensembles there was a strong tradition of female impersonation on stage. The interwar diaries of Cecil Beaton, who identified privately as a homosexual man, provide an unusually detailed source of information about a period when sexual controversy began to surround theatrical cross-dressing. In the 1930s, when moves were made to open previously men-only university drama clubs to women, the issue of male homosexuality and its alleged connections with student theatre came to be widely discussed. This reflected significant changes in the ways in which queerness was accommodated within the predominantly male environment of the University.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 10, 2021
Publication Date 2022-06
Publicly Available Date Nov 11, 2023
Journal Twentieth Century British History
Print ISSN 0955-2359
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
DOI https://doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwab036
Publisher URL https://academic.oup.com/tcbh/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/tcbh/hwab036/6425041?redirectedFrom=fulltext

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