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Queer TimingThe Emergence of Lesbian Sexuality in Early Cinema$
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Susan Potter

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042461

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042461.001.0001

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Valentino’s Lesbianism

Valentino’s Lesbianism

Stardom, Spectatorship, and Queer Recognition

Chapter:
(p.122) 6. Valentino’s Lesbianism
Source:
Queer Timing
Author(s):

Susan Potter

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5622/illinois/9780252042461.003.0007

This chapter considers the terms by which Rudolph Valentino’s historical female spectatorship is shaped by both identifications with and desires for the feminized star. These entangled spectatorial relations are often associated with Valentino’s negation of cross-sex desire, whether through his onscreen relationships with mannish or asexual female figures, or his offscreen relationships with well-known sapphic figures. The chapter argues that these and other elements of Valentino’s contradictory fantasy image, though constitutive of his sexual ambiguity, comprise a more obscure fantasmatic supporting female same-sex desire and new forms of sexual identity shared by women and men. The spectatorial possibilities that accrue to Valentino are suggestive of the unpredictable but also generative possibilities of the Hollywood star system by which the seeming impossibility of desire between women might register in more diffuse terms as a kind of recognizable queer affect or structure of feeling.

Keywords:   Fantasmatic, Fantasy, Female spectatorship, Hollywood star system, Queer affect, Rudolph Valentino, Same-sex desire, Sexual identity, Structure of feeling

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