The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall

Front Cover
Terry Castle
Columbia University Press, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 1110 pages

Since the Renaissance, countless writers have been magnetized by the notion of love between women. From Renaissance love poems to twentieth-century novels, plays, and short stories, The Literature of Lesbianism brings together hundreds of literary works on the subject of female homosexuality. This is not an anthology of "lesbian writers." Nor is it simply a one-sided compendium of "positive" or "negative" images of lesbian experience. Terry Castle explores the emergence and transformation of the "idea of lesbianism": its conceptual origins and how it has been transmitted, transformed, and collectively embellished over the past five centuries.

Both male and female authors are represented here and they display an astonishing and often unpredictable range of attitudes. Some excoriate female same-sex love; some eulogize it. Some are salacious or satiric; others sympathetic and confessional. Yet what comes across everywhere is just how visible -- as a literary theme -- Sapphic love has always been in Western literature. As Castle demonstrates, it is hardly the taboo or forbidden topic we sometimes assume it to be, but has in fact been a central preoccupation for many of our greatest writers, past and present.

Beginning with an excerpt from Ariosto's comic epic poem, Orlando Furioso, the anthology progresses chronologically through the next five centuries, presenting selections from Shakespeare, John Donne, Katherine Philips, Aphra Behn, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Alexander Pope, the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Brontė, Emily Dickinson, Guy de Maupassant, Henry James, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Nella Larsen, Colette, and Graham Greene, among many others. It also includes some anonymous works -- several published here for the first time -- as well as numerous translations from the writers of antiquity, such as Sappho, Ovid, Martial, and Juvenal, whose rediscovery in the early Renaissance helped shape subsequent Western literary representations of female homosexuality.

 

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User Review  - senbei - LibraryThing

Extremely useful resource for Lesbian, Feminist and Women's Lit Crit. Despite the fact that it weighs 20 lbs and I'm apt to destroy the dust jacket, I reference this book almost every day. Beware, many of the cited works you will not be able to lay your hands on with any ease. Read full review

The literature of lesbianism: a historical anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Editor Castle (humanities, Stanford Univ.) brings her characteristic good humor and wide-ranging intelligence to bear on a theme she first discussed in The Apparitional Lesbian, namely, what she sees ... Read full review

Contents

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About the author (2003)

Terry Castle is Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. She is the author of six books, including The Apparitional Lesbian and Boss Ladies, Watch Out! She is a regular contributor to The New Republic, The London Review of Books, and other publications. She lives in San Francisco, CA.
Terry Castle is Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities in the Department of English at Stanford University. She is the author of, among other books, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (Columbia, 1993), and Kindred Spirits: Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall (Columbia, 1996). She has written widely on lesbian literature and culture for The New Republic, The London Review of Books, TLS, and other publications.

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