The Sexual Geographies of Reading in Post-war London
Hornsey, R. (2002) The Sexual Geographies of Reading in Post-war London. Gender Place and Culture A Journal of Feminist Geography, 9 (4). pp. 371-384. ISSN 13600524
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This paper examines the way in which the spaces, practices and pleasures of reading books during the post-war period became inscribed within a heteronormative geographical imaginary. The active state provision of cultural welfare framed London’s public branch libraries as key loci of knowledge and information, with their own attendant logics of reading, spatiality and time. However the growing visibility of paperbacks across the city during the 1950s rendered these logics increasingly problematic, until the threatened Penguin publication of DH Lawrence’s 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover' finally pushed them into crisis. As seen from an analysis of the ensuing trial, the dominant understanding of the relationships between reading, knowledge and space was only preserved by reformulating them within a profoundly heteronormative geography. The second part of this paper examines the extent to which the practices of queer men challenged this construction, in particular focussing on the defacement of public library books by Kenneth Halliwell and his lover John (later ‘Joe’) Orton. It concludes by questioning the limits of Frank Mort’s recently proposed analytical framework for pursuing historical geographical research.