The Art of Shrinking: Minority Stress, Coping, and Camp in Beverley Nichols's "Merry Hall" Trilogy.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

January 2016

Publication Title

Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Jorunal of Criticism and Theory


Examining Beverley Nichols's Merry Hall trilogy, this essay applies the social theory of minority stress and explores the ways in which the author's identity is shaped by his sexual identity in mid-century England. Through the collation of well-documented details from Nichols's life as well as historical research detailing the effects of societal marginalization on sexual minorities during the mid-twentieth century, the authors demonstrate the effects of minority stress, including both adaptive and maladaptive coping mechanisms, in Nichols's Merry Hall trilogy, documenting the hypervigilance Nichols exhibits as he conceals his sexual orientation as well as his internalization of societal homophobia. The authors argue that Nichols's stylized affectations demonstrate his use of elaborate coping mechanisms that mitigate his marginalization in society. Ultimately, this study interrogates the ways in which Nichols employs the literary theme of gardening in order to create a protected communal space for gay men, applying the political significance of the British garden as a means to cultivate a public image of himself as a patriarchal landowner as he appeals to the postwar British nostalgia for its past; and it demonstrates how Nichols uses both camp humor and duplicity to subvert the rigid intolerance of the period toward sexual minorities.