chapter  2
Pages 32

The theatre is public, open and corporate, where the novel is private, closed and personal. The dramatists of the inter-war years, who managed to secure productions for plays contending with homosexual desire, adapted some of the strategies of subterfuge already employed by novelists brooding upon similar themes. The dramatists tended, though not exclusively, to rely upon the same view of homosexual desire that affected Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, Joseph Conrad’s Victory, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and André Gide’s The Immoralist (which, indeed, emerged in dramatised form upon the stages of New York and London in the mid-1950s). They had interpreted such desire as a self-destructive passion, inducing an unwelcome host of negative emotions. And the diction of such works, ‘a language of reticence and evasion, obliqueness and indirection’, came to figure as techniques of canny defiance for playwrights.1 For the 1927 New York state legislation which prevented the depiction of plays dealing with homosexuality, and a similar veto in Britain, imposed a need for analogous forms of theatrical reticence.