Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure

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(University of Michigan Press, 2012)

By Sarah Warner

Against queer theory's long-suffering romance with mourning and melancholia and a national agenda that urges homosexuals to renounce pleasure if they want to be taken seriously, Acts of Gaiety seeks to reanimate notions of "gaiety" as a political value for LGBT activism by recovering earlier mirthful modes of political performance. The book mines the archives of lesbian-feminist activism of the 1960s–70s, highlighting the outrageous gaiety—including camp, kitsch, drag, guerrilla theater, zap actions, rallies, manifestos, pageants, and parades alongside "legitimate theater”-- at the center of the social and theatrical performances of the era. Juxtaposing figures such as Valerie Solanas and Jill Johnston with more recent performers and activists including Hothead Paisan, Bitch and Animal, and the Five Lesbian Brothers, Sara Warner shows how reclaiming this largely discarded and disavowed past elucidates possibilities for being and belonging. Acts of Gaietyexplores the mutually informing histories of gayness as politics and as joie de vivre, along with the centrality of liveliness to queer performance and protest.