Male Femininity in Twentieth Century Literature of the Americas (09/15/09; NeMLA 4/7-11/2010, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

full name / name of organization: 
Harry Thomas / NeMLA: Northeastern Modern Language Association
contact email: 

This panel aims to identify representations of male femininity in twentieth century literature of the Americas, and to examine the cultural work done by the appearance and circulation of these representations.

The term male femininity comes from Judith Halberstam's FEMALE MASCULINITY (1998), wherein she argues (in passing) that male bodies can possess/perform femininity, but what other theoretical models might enable productive discussion of effeminate men? Other questions to be considered by the panel include (but are not limited to): How is male femininity produced or marked or named as such? Why is male femininity so often, at least in U.S. contexts, pathologized and used as a marker of villainy and/or weakness? And in what contexts is it valorized, where and how might male femininity emerge as something other than a failed version of "successful" male masculinity? What accounts for the differences between valorized and denigrated forms of male femininity? What major works or authors are preoccupied with male femininity? What is the relationship, if any, between male femininity and male homosexuality and how did understandings of this relationship change over the course of the twentieth century? Are the terms and forms of male femininity that are recognized in English-speaking U.S. contexts (the sissy, the queen, the cuckold, the flamer, etc.) recognizable or applicable in non-U.S. contexts within the Americas?

The panel welcomes work on all types of literature (conceived broadly, to include both canonical and non-canonical texts) produced somewhere in the Americas (again, conceived broadly) in the twentieth century. Methodological approaches which read textual sources alongside of, or in conversation with, non-textual sources (film, television, performance, etc.) are also welcome.

Please email abstracts (250-500 words) to Harry Thomas (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) at by September 15th, 2009.