Noël Coward & Radclyffe Hall
by Terry Castle
Genre: Biography; Literary Criticism; Literary History
Publisher: Columbia University Press
No. of Pages: 174
No. In Series:
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At first glance, it seems difficult to imagine two more different literary personalities than Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall. Coward’s writing is playful, sarcastic, absurd; Hall’s is brooding and melancholic, rife with misery and suffering. Where she throws her head back in despair, he merely lifts an eyebrow. Yet as Terry Castle displays in her provocative new study, the two had much more in common than critics have been willing to concede. The first look at the literary and biographical link between these influential contemporaries, Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall recounts a forgotten literary friendship and shows that Coward and Hall even make subtle, ‘ghostly’ appearances in each others’ works. This captivating tale is brought to life in a series of 45 illustrations, including photographs of Hall, Coward, and others in their social circle, along with cartoon renditions of the two from the popular press. Through its imaginative juxtaposition of two major literary figures, this provocative work illuminates how traditional ideas of the differences between male and female homosexuals shield from view a vast arena of cultural understanding. Castle pushes past stale definitions – the tragic lesbian and the witty, urbane gay man – to present a broader picture. In the process, Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall provides a rich critical vocabulary for bridging the experiences of gays and lesbians in history, casting light upon deep-rooted stereotypes that have long separated the two.
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