He was a Camera: Christopher Isherwood, Weimar Germany, and Transationalism in the American Gay Rights Movement
Date of Award
Campus Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Aaron S. Lecklider
Christopher Isherwood was a novelist perhaps best known in America for writing the stories later immortalized in the Broadway musical Cabaret. He lived in Germany during the Weimar Republic (1919-33) and drew upon his experiences in the gay community to write the “Berlin Stories” and others depicting homosexual culture in Berlin. Germany after WWI saw a liberalizing period of social freedom, including relaxed sexual norms that allowed the homosexual community to “come out” from the invisible underground. It is that community with which Isherwood interacted and experienced ideas he brought out of Germany. Coming to America in 1939, Isherwood existed as a transnational figure within the American gay rights movement, who aided the homosexual cause by incorporating his Berlin experiences into novels dealing openly with homosexuality as early as the 1930s and 40s. It was the freedom of his Weimar experience that led Isherwood to carve out his identity both as “an outsider minority” within the dominant heterosexual society, and as an activist openly declaring and discussing his homosexuality as a public figure. Isherwood’s United States was a society dominated by heterosexual culture norms, and he rebelled against it. He perpetuated his Weimar identification with an “outsider minority” that should exist in peace within a dominant heterosexual society, used his writing as a boost to the homosexual rights movement to help create a gay literature base, and became a transnational bridge between the permissive culture of Weimar Germany and the United States in the 1960s and 70s.
Nelson, Kristof R., "He was a Camera: Christopher Isherwood, Weimar Germany, and Transationalism in the American Gay Rights Movement" (2016). Graduate Masters Theses. 391.
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