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Performing Queer Modernism. By Penny Farfan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017; 154 pp.; illustrations. $99.00 cloth, $34.95 paper, e-book available.
Penny Farfan's work reflects on the ways queerness and modernism intersected on social and cultural stages in the late-19th and early-20th century. Bringing together a selection of queer performances, artists, and authors, Farfan argues that citational slippages such as homosocial desire, uncanny doubles, and androgynous heterosexuality in the reiteration of sex/gender norms onstage played a major role in shaping and reflecting the spectrum of emerging modern sexual identities. She begins by examining the interplay of homosocial and homoerotic behavior in Arthur Wing Pinero's The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893), revealing the sexual double standards of the conventional society drama while opening up a space for queer dynamics and desires to arise amongst characters, actors, and spectators. In an exploration of Loie Fuller's Fire Dance (1895) and Salome (1895), Farfan shows how the dancer/choreographer's "uncanny" aura and the presence of queer "ghostly" figures from past roles in her work allowed the artist to embody uncertainty and indeterminacy. In chapter three, Farfan highlights how dissident male sexuality disrupted conventional expectations of heterosexual narrative resolution in Vaslav Nijinsky's ballet Afternoon of a Faun (1912). The book culminates in a close reading of Noël Coward's popular Private Lives (1930) in which Farfan stresses how the work subverted comic norms by depicting androgynous characters. In these different case studies, Farfan repeatedly asserts queer performances as powerfully subversive yet insufficiently recognized realities in modernist scholarship.
Marching Dykes, Liberated Sluts, and Concerned Mothers: Women Transforming Public Space. By Elizabeth Currans. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2017; 248 pp.; illustrations. $95.00 cloth, $27.95 paper, e-book available.
Focusing on public demonstrations primarily organized and attended by women in the early 21st century, Elizabeth Currans's book asks how and why certain groups utilize protest as a way of participating in contemporary political and cultural dialogues. Through various women-led initiatives, Currans discusses issues of sexuality, war, and citizenship. The Minneapolis Take Back the Night march, the New York and East Bay dyke marches, and the online and on-the-ground phenomenon of SlutWalks, constitute the book's first case studies. Designating sexuality as a key issue of feminist organizing and of intrafeminist disagreement, Currans looks at a [End Page 180] spectrum of queer expressions of pleasure and feminist responses to danger manifested in these public demonstrations. Presenting local histories, interviews, and observations that focus on participant and organizer experiences, Currans's analytical snapshots describe protests as rare opportunities for public copresence. In two distinct post–9/11 antiwar protests, the silent vigils by the Women in Black and CODEPINK's direct actions targeting politicians, she expands on privilege (race and class) within protest movements, underscoring how transgressing accepted norms can simultaneously reinforce others. Turning towards emotions, affect, and citizenship practices, the book concludes with a discussion of two marches on Washington to illustrate how a space chosen for its symbolic value can be transformed to meet a range of political ends.
Using the Sky: a dance. By Deborah Hay. London...