Un/popular Culture: Lesbian Writing after the Sex Wars

Article excerpt

Un/popular Culture: Lesbian Writing after the Sex Wars. Kathleen Martindale. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Kathleen Martindale's Un/popular Culture focuses on the transformation of lesbian-feminism from a political vanguard to a cultural neo-avantgarde after the feminist "sex wars" of the 1980s. Instead of presenting a simple historical narrative, in which the lesbian-feminism of the 1970s gives way to the lesbian postmodernism of the 1990s, Martindale attempts "to do justice to the theoretical complexity and the contradictions of lesbian feminism" (1). She states that the subject of Un/popular Culture is the "written texts of lesbian postmodernism...particularly those that self-consciously treat the development of this new cultural formation and critically engage with and against it" (24).

After introducing the terms of her argument, Martindale examines the role of texts in the construction of lesbian identity. "[T]he relationship between lesbians and reading, as a process which questions, complicates, and even transforms identities rather than merely affirming them," she writes, "still remains under-theorized" (53; Martindale's emphasis). In her analysis of lesbian culture, Martindale explicates the reciprocal relationship between lesbian cultural productions and lesbian identity. According to Martindale, every way of theorizing lesbianism is "flawed, partial, or exclusionary" (49); despite the limitations, however, texts are able to create and transform lesbian identities. "Because there is no necessary connection between lesbianism and particular sets of political, aesthetic, or sexual preferences," she writes, "no single theoretical discourse fits all lesbians" (49).

Martindale continues to problematize political and theoretical categories as she examines the work of Alison Bechdel and Diane DiMassa, Joan Nestle, and Sarah Schulman. …