: The Composition of New Butch Literature

  • Hannah Levene

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This practise-led thesis tenders my novel, Greasepaint as an example of the composition of new butch literature. Following an ensemble cast of all singing, all dancing butch dykes and Yiddish anarchists through eternal Friday nights round the table and at the bar, Greasepaint writes inside of what I argue are the resounding strains of butch, Yiddish, anarchism, and music. Building upon Jack Halberstam’s definition of butch as “a belief, a performance, a swagger in the walk; butch is an attitude, a tough line, a fiction” (Halberstam 233) this thesis makes the case for butch as a mode of communication – a gender fiction requiring readers. Following the butch reliance on style as that which says more than the butch ever could, I advocate for formal experimentation in butch writing. In addressing the question of what butch looks like on the page, this thesis analyses the butch book published by the lesbian-feminist press in the United States from 1969 to the early 1990s and figures the relationship between these ‘old dyke tales’ and new butch literature as being ‘impressed’. This thesis argues that leaving an impression is vital to butch as an inherently mutual position. I figure the butch as an embodied 1950s whose persistence disrupts linear time and argue such disruption is key to the creation of new butch literature. Advocating for butch to be read not as ‘over’ but, rather, always almost ‘overflowing’ this thesis both theorises and puts into practise butch writing unconstrained by the fear of being forgotten so as to open up the butch narrative to contain the coalitional identities which get stripped away in the process of delineating or making linear history. This thesis highlights the ways in which butch and Yiddish writing form parallel potential writing spaces. Inside of Yiddishkeit I focus on Yiddish-anarchism and consider the specificity of the Yiddish anarchist butch as a coalition held within the body. Ultimately, this thesis makes the case for a musical or compositional approach to butch writing. In a dual reading of anarchism and music this thesis looks at the ways that music: provides space for coalitional resonance amongst identity positions, provides a feeling which pushes towards overflowing figured as revolution, and, pivotally, provides a necessary medium through which butchness can travel.
    Date of Award11 Oct 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorPeter Jaeger (Director of Studies) & Isabel Waidner (Co-Supervisor)


    • Butch
    • Anarchism
    • Lesbian
    • Yiddish Anarchism
    • Queer
    • Yiddish
    • Writing
    • Butch Writing
    • Queer Writing
    • Butch Literature

    Cite this