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Open Access The traitor as patriot: Guy Burgess, Englishness and camp in Another Country and An Englishman Abroad

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This article focuses on the representation of the spy Guy Burgess, one of the famous Cambridge ring, in two very successful British heritage films, An Englishman Abroad (John Schlesinger, UK, 1983) and Another Country (Marek Kanievska, UK, 1984). The article argues that the films rely on popular notions of Englishness as politically safe and non-extremist, thus fabricating a view of the past that misrepresents Burgess in the effort to normalize him. Similarly, stereotypical views of gay men as frivolous and non-ideological are amply exploited in the films' portrayal of their protagonist. Burgess's upper-class English roots are used to package him as part of the heritage experience, while his homosexuality is not only presented as the reason for spying, but it is also constructed as a camp performance, effectively defusing the threat of ideological commitment and political betrayal. The radical, lethal and devoutly Marxist Burgess is thus stripped of his ideology and turned into a safe national icon.
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Keywords: Englishness; Guy Burgess; camp; heritage; homosexuality; spies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of St Andrews

Publication date: 2012-07-12

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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