Allan Johnson’s research centres broadly around literary modernism, esotericism, sexuality, and narrative theory. He is the author of Alan Hollinghurst and the Vitality of Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and is currently completing a monograph entitled The Fisher King’s Wound: Sequence, Consequence and a Sense of the Beginning, 1919-1945. Other work includes articles and chapters on an array of modern and contemporary writers including Stoker, Dreiser, Wharton, Shaw, Cather, Forster, Woolf, Waugh, James, Eliot, Doctorow, and Hollinghurst.
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The growth of leisure time for the middle- and working-classes during the Second Industrial Revolution gave rise to a newly modern leisure industry. This article argues that Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth center on this particular social and economical development as a means by which to establish that economic identity must be defined antithetically to the inescapable swell of mass, modern life. These novels illustrate a crucial economic transition in American history through their evaluation of the potential roles that Carrie Meeber and Lily Bart can play as objects of leisure, employees of the leisure industry, or bearers of what the economist Thorstein Veblen calls ‘conspicuous leisure.’ Dreiser and Wharton offer arch critiques of this new leisure class—not for populist or egalitarian purposes, but as a response to the toxic effects of a newly commoditized culture which supported and defined the leisured elite.
In 1979 the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary upheld the guilty verdict in a blasphemy trial concerning James Kirkup’s ‘The Love that Dares to Speak its Name’ (1976), an intensely homoerotic poem about Christ’s crucifixion published in the Gay Liberation Front broadsheet Gay News. The Law Lords sustained both the fine and suspended prison sentence for Gay News publisher Denis Lemon, and the European Commission of Human Rights declined to hear a further appeal. Still remembered as the final prosecution for blasphemy in England, Whitehouse v Lemon was the last of several high-profile censorship and obscenity cases in Britain involving homoerotic literature – including Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928) and James Hanley’s Boy (1931) – a worrying register that led E. M. Forster to sense that his novel Maurice (1971) could not be published during his lifetime. Despite the eventual decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967, gay writers continued to face both legal and public scrutiny for a number of years, a concern exacerbated by the introduction of Section 28 of the Local Government Act in 1988, which criminalized the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. However, the two decades between Whitehouse v Lemon and the initial move to repeal Section 28 in 2000 also brought for gay male writers not only widening mainstream recognition but moreover new legal, social and political freedoms to draw attention to and help evaluate the complexities of a fundamentally altered gay British experience.
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