Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on the Well of Loneliness

By Laura Doan; Jay Prosser | Go to book overview

14
War Wounds: The Nation, Shell Shock, and
Psychoanalysis in The Well of Loneliness

Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness immediately made history, many histories. As the collection of essays in this book attests, the novel's publication and legal prosecution constituted powerful nodal points in the history of sexuality, obscenity, legality, and literature. Published just ten years after the end of the Great War, The Well of Loneliness also boldly remade history and the languages of history by enlisting the memories of war and the rhetoric of national citizenship in the service of an antihomophobic literary project. Such a strategy contested the traditions of censorship and sexual purity campaigns that recurrently figured the threat of deviant sexuality through a rhetoric of battle and national invasion. Indeed, the moral “war” against homosexuality was vividly staged by one of Hall's most vituperative critics, James Douglas, whose editorial in the Sunday Express instigated the legal suppression of The Well of Loneliness. When Douglas attacked Hall's novel and demanded its withdrawal, he quite literally issued a battle call to the postwar British nation. “I know that the battle has been lost in France and Germany,” he exclaims,“But it has not yet been lost in England, and I do not believe that it will be lost.” 1 He continues with patriotic fervor, “The English people are slow to rise in their wrath and strike down the armies of evil, but when they are aroused they show

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