Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Arts & Lit LGBTQ+ Author Spotlight: Tennessee Williams

LGBTQ+ Author Spotlight: Tennessee Williams

Amy Cases looks at the significance of Tennessee Williams in queer literary history.
3 mins read
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Image: Orlando Fernandez via Wikimedia Commons

As we look at literature at any level of education, and especially during queer history month, it is highly important to think of queer writers who have left inspiring and heartfelt legacies through their writing for the LGBTQ+ community to feel represented and seen.

Tennessee Williams, a gifted playwright, was born in 1911 and died in 1983, and was known for being an openly gay man and representing his community. Throughout his life, Williams produced manuscripts for anyone to read, but most importantly for the community, to feel proud seeing such an extraordinarily talented queer figure in the world of classics and on top of bookshelves.

Williams produced manuscripts for anyone to read, but most importantly for the [LGBTQ+] community

One of his truly captivating works – the 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire – is one everyone should read at least once. The story takes place in New Orleans and is centred around two sisters: Blanche and Stella. Blanche visits her sister, who is portrayed as being in an abusive marriage with her husband Stanley. The title depicts the meaning of the plot perfectly: Blanche is brought by a streetcar into the lives of Stella and her husband, with each character driven by an innate desire to attain, in one form or another, power and control. Stanley’s need to control Blanche, Blanche’s need to control her image, and Stella’s need for Stanley financially, for her and her unborn child. Even though this is an extremely tragic story, what makes it such a beautiful read are the symbols of the blue piano, the Varsouviana and many more, lexical fields of the sea and sailors, which are extremely accurate images to follow the flow of the story. Every one of his words has been chosen meticulously, demonstrating the perfection of his artistic abilities.

He used his charm to speak against the idea of “un-spoken” subjects and name societal issues – those affecting the queer community, abuse against women, tensions, and many more; he wanted to be loud. Tenessee Williams is a crucial name to know as one of the most influential writers in history. His courage in representing gay characters from as early as the 1940s cannot be overlooked, especially as it was only in 1961 that the United States began to decriminalise same-sex sexual activity.

He was a truly resilient and brave writer who has used his voice to tell others to be proud of their identities and to speak up about what lies in their heart; to make noise.

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