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Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 Letters to The Ladder

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Abstract:

While widely regarded as a signifier for racial justice for close to 50 years, the playwright and political activist/writer Lorraine Hansberry was not constructed as a queer signifier until after her death in 1965. This essay contests one of the commonly received narratives about Hansberry that is articulated in both African-American and lesbian/gay contexts -- that she was an assimilationist playwright of little political importance except biographically as an African-American (lesbian). The essay’s careful reading of Hansberry’s work in its pre-civil rights, pre-Stonewall historical context reveals Hansberry as a writer whose acumen and breadth clearly distinguish her as one of the foremost public intellectuals of her time. Moreover, in the context of gay/lesbian studies of public communication, Hansberry’s contributions to the Ladder exemplify a distinctive and frequently omitted perspective in contemporary debates over race, gender, and sexuality.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

hansberri (180), letter (121), lesbian (117), ladder (82), public (65), black (63), women (63), homosexu (48), polit (48), queer (45), new (43), write (42), one (39), york (33), american (29), histori (28), gay (27), communiti (27), border (27), sexual (26), histor (25),

Author's Keywords:

Lesbian History and Periodicals, Subaltern Publics, African-American History, Rhetorical Studies, Public Communication
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Name: International Communication Association
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MLA Citation:

Lipari, Lisbeth. "Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 Letters to The Ladder" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112109_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lipari, L. , 2003-05-27 "Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 Letters to The Ladder" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112109_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: While widely regarded as a signifier for racial justice for close to 50 years, the playwright and political activist/writer Lorraine Hansberry was not constructed as a queer signifier until after her death in 1965. This essay contests one of the commonly received narratives about Hansberry that is articulated in both African-American and lesbian/gay contexts -- that she was an assimilationist playwright of little political importance except biographically as an African-American (lesbian). The essay’s careful reading of Hansberry’s work in its pre-civil rights, pre-Stonewall historical context reveals Hansberry as a writer whose acumen and breadth clearly distinguish her as one of the foremost public intellectuals of her time. Moreover, in the context of gay/lesbian studies of public communication, Hansberry’s contributions to the Ladder exemplify a distinctive and frequently omitted perspective in contemporary debates over race, gender, and sexuality.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 28
Word count: 11683
Text sample:
One of the challenges of queering historical public address is to resist the impulse to produce an account of a “real” queer figure which in the end simply produces yet another discursive formation. Public address scholars such as Morris have articulated the ambiguities of the queer rhetorical persona who evades easy identification.1 An interesting example of this process can be seen in the discursive construction of Lorraine Hansberry who while widely regarded as a signifier for racial justice for
site whose uses are not fully contrained in advance.” 81 To affirm the contingency of the term “lesbian” in this case would be to recognize both the complexity of Hansberry’s historicity as both a rhetor witnessing political persecution and as a person of history experiencing it. Further affirming the contingency of Hansberry’s Ladder letters means reading Hansberry the way she read the world – from a historically grounded intersectional perspective that denies no question its due. 79 Gomez 316.


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