Title page for ETD etd-01212005-212501

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Sewell, Shaun Erwin
URN etd-01212005-212501
Title Public Sexuality: A Contemporary History of Gay Images and Identity
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Theatre
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Leslie A. Wade, Committee Chair
Angeletta KM Gourdine Committee Member
Jennifer Jones-Cavenaugh Committee Member
Michael Tick Committee Member
Matthew Lee Dean's Representative
  • identity
  • public
  • history
  • imaging
  • gay
Date of Defense 2004-12-17
Availability unrestricted
This study is an examination of the public imaging of gay men and lesbians during the latter part of the twentieth and early part of the twenty-first centuries. The study looks at public imaging as it is performed in the service of the political aims of gay people, with an eye towards the kinds of tensions and erasures that occur when one monolithic identity is promoted. Through these examinations, I create a kind of contemporary history of the gay political rights movement.

In the study, I examine theoretical approaches to identity from several postmodern theorists and then use these approaches to support my work in the three chapters. In each chapter I focus on one site of gay identity performances: Southern Decadence in New Orleans, the murder of Matthew Shepard, and the decriminalization of sodomy. At each site, I examine the event, the various identities presented, and the tensions and erasures that result from the specific identity performances. In conclusion, I envision a political movement which is inclusive of multiple identities not just those which fit a predetermined conservative public presentation.

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