Queer be dragons: Mapping LGBT fantasy novels 1987-2000
Citation:Stephen Kenneally, Queer be dragons: Mapping LGBT fantasy novels 1987-2000, Trinity College Dublin, 2016
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Fantasy, considered as a genre, is an ideal space to represent the queer, strange, and different in ways that attract both a readership of enjoyment and the academic critic. It should therefore be well-placed to include and represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters, who often lie outside and transgress against accepted heterosexual cultural norms. Despite its evident potential for such work, fantasy is frequently considered to be a conservative, patriarchal, and sometimes homophobic genre. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a vast increase in LGBT representation in all genres of speculative fiction, including fantasy, but this increased presence did not change the genre’s essential tendency to encourage queer representation in theory but to eschew or marginalise it in practice by consistently presenting heteronormative contexts. This neglect of LGBT fantasy is reinforced by a dearth of academic engagement with the topic, despite the extensive work done on related genres such as LGBT/queer science fiction. This thesis addresses that tension between potential and practice by positing the emergence of a new genre of LGBT fantasy during the period 1987-2000, identifiable within, yet separate from, the broader fantasy genre and defined by the presence of LGBT characters in primary roles. Drawing from previous attempts to catalogue and categorise this material, in particular Eric Garber and Lyn Paleo’s 1983/1990 bibliography Uranian Worlds, the goal of this research was to uncover, establish, and analyse a comprehensive novelistic canon for the emergent genre of LGBT fantasy in this period. The first chapter of the thesis sets out the historical and theoretical context of the fantasy genre and its potential for queer representation; it assesses the lack of critical work in the area; it argues for the creation of an LGBT fantasy canon through genre theory; finally, it examines how a queer theory approach can work with genre theory to assist the formation of a canon. The second chapter deals with the practicalities and difficulties of uncovering and defining a canon for a hidden genre. It chronicles the development of a rigorous methodology for locating the primary texts of LGBT fantasy from a wide variety of secondary sources, including book reviews, fan-created lists, and award nominations, while exploring the assumptions, theoretical complexities, and methodological decisions it was necessary to navigate in so doing. It discusses the process of compiling a longlist of 377 novels, winnowing it to a reading list of 143, and reducing it to a final shortlist of 107. Lastly, it presents the statistical data regarding the utility of the secondary sources and conducts an effectiveness test of the methodology, which is shown to be both comprehensive in its results and more effective than the methods used to compile Uranian Worlds. The third chapter sets out the coding and classificatory methods used to categorise the 107 shortlisted texts. It then presents these texts as a collected and comprehensive canon of the LGBT fantasy genre for the period 1987-2000, organised as a database and incorporating detailed textual analyses derived from close-reading. The fourth chapter explores broader emergent trends of representation in the collected literature, beginning with a discussion of how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters, and their relationships, are presented within the genre. It then presents a detailed case study of the two most significant influences within LGBT fantasy of the time period: coming out and AIDS. Finally, the conclusion to the thesis examines the nature of the genre of LGBT fantasy itself, as revealed in its textual canon and how it conforms to genre theory: the tensions present within it, the shapes it takes, and the desires it expresses. It ends with a reflection on the research itself, the insights derived from the process, and the potential for future research on the genre of LGBT fantasy.
Author: KENNEALLY, STEPHEN CHRISTOPHER
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available