Department of History
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Department of History
Thesis title: How were men in drag in British entertainment constructed and perceived in terms of gender and sexuality c.1919-c.1970?
- Adrian Bingham (Primary)
- Julie Gottlieb (Secondary)
My thesis surveys the use of drag by men in entertainment from c.1910 to c.1970. It considers a breadth of materials that have largely been neglected by historians including drag films, television programmes, postcards, newsreels, and stage performances. My thesis investigates how characters in drag were constructed, detecting key trends in the purpose of drag, the types of women portrayed, and their relationship with other characters. It also explores a selection of reactions to drag, utilising newspaper reviews, fan magazines, newsreel narration, and postcard inscriptions. It analyses the construction and reception of drag with special attention to its gender and sexual implications. However, I take a queer view of gender and sexuality. I argue that to understand the meanings of the historical gender and sexual terminology used to describe men in drag, we must first interrogate the boundaries and uses of contemporary gender and sexual labels, categories, and terms, and compare them with the terminology used for men in drag. I aim not to assume that man, woman, homosexual, or heterosexual are self-evident categories and instead view them as a product of their historical circumstances. To this end, my thesis also charts the development of gay and trans identities throughout the twentieth century, using them as a benchmark for assessing contemporary gender and sexual norms and the status of the drag performer within them. Through this, we can establish whether the drag performer was considered a social ‘deviant’ or simply a temporary comic. By situating drag within contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality, my thesis questions the definition of terms such as man, woman, homosexual, heterosexual, and trans.
- PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2022 - present
- MSc History, University of Glasgow, 2020 - 2021
- MA History, University of Glasgow, 2016 - 2020
- University of Sheffield, Faculty of Arts and Humanities Scholarship Award 2022-2024
- University of Glasgow, Stanislaw Westfal Award 2019
- Teaching activities
- HST119 - The Transformation of the United Kingdom
- Professional activities and memberships
- Research Assistant in Modern British History, assisting Dr Julia Moses with her QE Research Cultures Fund funded project ‘Global Socio-Economic Rights: Sheffield in Global Historical Perspective’.
- Student Representative sitting on the University of Sheffield Senate 2022-2023