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1928: Sapphic Modernity and the Sexuality of History

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Refer to eBay Return policy for more details. You are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee if you receive an item that is not as described in the listing. Payment details. Payment methods. The reversed lens that I call the sexuality of history suggests that the absence of home spaces in these novels also makes lesbian characters a means for exploring the implications of an extrication from domestic ties that relocates and thereby reinvents the individual subject. If decoupling is a tragic outcome for the protagonist of The Well of Loneliness and perhaps also for characters in Extraordinary Women, it is celebratory in Ladies Almanack, whose Dame Musset is intractably polyamorous, and promising in The Hotel, where the protagonist Sydney extricates herself from both her engagement to Milton and her thrall to the manipulative Mrs.

This border-crossing intensifies a trend in some early modern picaresques, and it also reminds us that from the sixteenth century the sapphic was persistently figured in terms of the foreign. One might speculate, then, that in modernism the lesbian stands in for challenges to the mythology of the stable and heteronormative nation-state.

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A History of Modernist Literature - A History of Modernist Literature - Wiley Online Library

Here internationality is decidedly instability, and it is not insignificant that insofar as erotic unions occur at all in these novels, they are likely to occur within rather than across national identities. Given these class dynamics, it is no surprise that the sapphic modernity represented in the works is also dependent, and usually silently dependent, on white privilege. But this aspect of modernism, with its extension into an ambivalent primitivism, has eighteenth-century antecedents recognizable, for example, in the associations of sexuality with the South Seas.

The writings arguably configure modernity itself in terms of whiteness.

Series: Refiguring Modernism

In associating sexuality with privileged, mobile, international communities, the lesbian narratives of narrow the rough-and-tumble class inclusiveness and the dramatic cross-class affiliations that figure prominently in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century representations of the sapphic. By the late eighteenth century, though, that narrowing had already begun, and in ways that served both dystopic and utopian purposes. On the negative side, even before the French Revolution aristocratic overreaching and the dangers of female rule came to be figured through the sapphic, most vividly in the satires against Marie Antoinette and her circle but more widely against upperclass figures in general.

I have suggested in The Sexuality of History that the sapphic has always been modern insofar as it has been epistemically transgressive and thus able to figure transgression itself.

It has resisted containment through tropes of mobility and border-crossing; it has figured political upheavals that have little to do with sexuality as such. Without doubt, the novels moved the project of sapphic modernity forward dramatically, putting female same-sex desire into intensive textual circulation in ways that changed the cultural conversation and offered a critical bridge between the first and second waves of lesbian movement.

But if one project of modernity is to make the world safe for the sapphic, as it were, that project is complicated by disturbing conjunctions of sexuality, race, and class in both the eighteenth century and the s. I am not, therefore, restricting the term to literature either by lesbians or for lesbians however defined. Some scholars date The Hotel to , but I have been unable to locate such an imprint in any library or library catalogue including WorldCat; all date the earliest editions to My choice to explore the common tropes and practices among these novels does not deny the differences that could be attributed to biographical investments.

Michael H. Whitworth , rpt. George E. London: B. Deacon, , University of Michigan, Phyllis Birkby et al.