The Circle Always Grew: Folklore and Gay Identity, 1945-1960

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
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Azzolina, David S

It has become a common place in Gay studies that the rise of Gay culture as we know it today has its roots in the years immediately following World War II. Using life history field techniques as a means of doing field research, the folklore of Gay men of this era is examined. Interviews were conducted with men who were out in the Gay world during the fifteen years after 1945. Biographies of the men are provided. Specific kinds of folkloric behavior are explicated including bar customs, nicknaming, parties, festival events and popular means by which men were able to identify one another as Gay and become part of the Gay community. The role folklore plays in the process of Gay identification is also examined. Historical context is provided for the era as it impacts the ways in which Gays were seen and the influence the Gay presence reflects the tenor of the times. Underlying concepts of Gay identity and community are given priority as a theoretical underpinning furthering understanding of the ways in which folklore is a necessary ingredient for both identity and community. It is demonstrated that any understanding of Gay men of that era must attend to their creative abilities in using folklore to carve a place for themselves in the cultural arena.

Margaret Mills
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The graduate group for this dissertation is Folklore and Folklife.
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