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Anca Vlasopolos


The New Yorker, founded in 1925, generally suppressed representations of gay and lesbian subject matter prior to the 1990s. The dandy Eustace Tilley, The New Yorker's iconic personification, carried multiple significations. Dandyism's historical association with decadence and perversity combined with the cosmopolitanism of Jazz Age Manhattan in this symbol. Gay and lesbian writers and editors built their careers at the magazine through various combinations of ingenuity and compromise. Janet Flanner joined subjective observation with a carefully constructed, ambiguously gendered literary persona in her Paris Letters. Using the pseudonym Genet, she wrote in the tradition of flanerie, but complicated this typically masculine position with a feminine perspective. In her late fairy tales, the English writer Sylvia Townsend Warner introduced fantastic forms of homoeroticism. The dynamics of her friendship with the fiction editor William Maxwell reveal much about the magazine's institutional structure. The posthumous revelation of John Cheever's bisexuality has cast his stories of suburban heterosexuality in a new light. He brought an aesthete's sensibility to unexpected areas. Although Rachel Carson does not appear to have considered herself to be a lesbian, the controversy surrounding her seminal contribution "Silent Spring" foregrounded issues of gender and authority, including insinuations about her sexuality. During the same period, Truman Capote brought a subversively feminine perspective to his journalism for The New Yorker. In his poetry and his career as poetry editor, Howard Moss demonstrated both the constrictions of the closet and the possibilities of a more open expressivity. Similarly, the music critic Andrew Porter pioneered the discussion of homoeroticism in music, while eschewing personal confession. Tentative and conflicting representations of gay and lesbian subject matter emerged during the 1970s and '80s. The magazine Christopher Street attempted to imitate The New Yorker for the benefit of both gay and lesbian writers and an assumedly gay male audience. In contrast, the editor Tina Brown's reinvention of The New Yorker in the 1990s introduced provocative representations of homosexuality for publicity purposes.

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