Gay Artists in Modern American Culture: An Imagined by Michael S. Sherry

By Michael S. Sherry

This day it's widely known that homosexual males performed a popular function in defining the tradition of mid-20th-century the US, with such icons as Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Montgomery Clift, and Rock Hudson defining a lot of what appeared relatively "American" at the level and display. even supposing few homosexual artists have been "out," their sexuality brought on major anxiousness in the course of a time of rampant antihomosexual attitudes. Michael Sherry bargains a cosmopolitan research of the strain among the nation's simultaneous dependence on and worry of the cultural effect of homosexual artists.

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Given the familiarity of such humor, One magazine mocked Towne: ‘‘What there is of Mr. Towne’s mind is alarmingly lascivious. It must be fun for him though: think of all the filthy thoughts the rest of us miss by not looking askance at such seemingly harmless things as trench-coats and pork-pie hats. Sex, sex, everywhere! ’’ Normalizing what Towne saw as shocking, One got the argumentative upper hand, but Towne had the bigger audience. ’’ The ‘‘invasion’’ theme was common. ’’ 45 34 Waldeck and Towne articulated the major themes of postwar agitation: gay men covertly controlled cultural production and nurtured a culture lacking authenticity and weakening the nation.

Others wanted music transcending America in sources and appeals, thus proving discovery that America had come of age. ’’ But the competing definitions—music of America or music by Americans—went unreconciled in the 1930s. ’’ That outlook jostled with more capacious or tentative definitions. ’’ 25 Was there at least an ‘‘American sound’’—musical devices widely used by Americans, even defining of America? ’’ Some critics noted the prominent role of brass, often in elegiac or affirmative fanfares. ’’ Others focused on what American music seemed to express as much as how it did the expressing.

32 So too did a growing gay presence in the arts. Individuals like Griffes had been in the arts earlier, and a collective presence in entertainment and theater was well known by the 1920s, but in high culture such a presence and awareness of it emerged later. By World War II, composers moved in social and professional circles where gay figures were numerous. Notable was the Brooklyn household over which English poet W. H. Auden sternly presided during World War II. At various times it included, among others, composer/writer Paul Bowles, stripper/novelist Gypsy Rose Lee, English composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, Thomas Mann’s son Golo, and writer Carson McCullers.

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