Delicacy or shame : Christopher Isherwood’s obscured sexuality in Lions and shadows
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Christopher Isherwood’s 1938 autobiographical novel Lions and Shadows is often read in light of its subtitle as the story of “an education in the ‘twenties.” Yet Isherwood’s early work is more than a simple interwar bildungsroman. Lions and Shadows is a narratively complicated account of a privileged, queer youth in interwar England and an exposition of the effects of the Great War on an entire generation. The autobiographical novel provides veiled descriptions of the queer cultures of Cambridge and London in the 1920s, and records the early artistic development of several members of what has come to be called “The Auden Generation,” including Edward Upward, W.H. Auden, and Stephen Spender. In this project, I explore how and why Christopher Isherwood obscures his sexuality in Lions and Shadows, looking in particular at his friendships with Edward Upward and W.H. Auden and at the fictional work that the former friendship produced, The Mortmere Stories. Chapter 1 provides background information on homosexuality in England during Isherwood’s lifetime, focusing on how class and privilege affect the experience and expression of homosexuality. Chapter 2 analyzes the obsession with the Great War that pervades Lions and Shadows, concentrating on how the Great War affected ideas of masculinity and male sexuality. Finally, Chapter 3 explores the relationship between Isherwood’s social and sexual discomfort and the production and content of The Mortmere Stories, which tend to poke fun at sexual foibles and the proclivities of the upper classes.