Carrie Shaver

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Heather Addison

Second Advisor

Dr. Ilana Nash

Third Advisor

Dr. Rebekah Farrugia

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This research analyzes the historical social construction of identity through the visual reiteration of the norms of "woman" and "lesbian" as represented on the cover art of lesbian pulp fiction novels from 1950-1969. A subgenre of pulp paperbacks, lesbian pulps were sensationalistic and best-selling, reflecting the public lesbian image in the popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s (Keller, 2005). Their success in large part was due to popular mainstreaming of the fields of sexology, psychology, and psychiatry. The "normality" of female sexual behavior was a subject of great curiosity, especially after Alfred Kinsey's study of female sexuality was released in 1953 (D'Emilio, 1989). In addition, the ubiquity of such material tailored to prurient interests developed due to the advances of wood pulp paper technology and new distribution systems. As most texts designed for public audiences do, the pulps adopted "visually informative strategies" (Bernhardt, 1986); the cover art an essential element in the marketing of the novels. The visual and verbal elements of the covers were designed to arouse the interest of the viewer, moving the book from the rack into the hand.

Included in

Communication Commons