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Inseparable: Desire between Women in Literatureby Emma Donoghue
Synopses & Reviews
From a writer of astonishing versatility and erudition, the much-admired literary critic, novelist, short-story writer, and scholar (“Dazzling”—The Washington Post; “One of those rare writers who seems to be able to work on any register, any time, any atmosphere, and make it her own” —The Observer), a book that explores the little-known literary tradition of love between women in Western literature, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Charlotte Brontë, Dickens, Agatha Christie, and many more.
Emma Donoghue brings to bear all her knowledge and grasp to examine how desire between women in English literature has been portrayed, from schoolgirls and vampires to runaway wives, from cross-dressing knights to contemporary murder stories. Donoghue looks at the work of those writers who have addressed the “unspeakable subject,” examining whether such desire between women is freakish or omnipresent, holy or evil, heartwarming or ridiculous as she excavates a long-obscured tradition of (inseparable) friendship between women, one that is surprisingly central to our cultural history.
Donoghue writes about the half-dozen contrasting girl-girl plots that have been told and retold over the centuries, metamorphosing from generation to generation. What interests the author are the twists and turns of the plots themselves and how these stories have changed—or haven’t—over the centuries, rather than how they reflect their time and society.
Donoghue explores the writing of Sade, Diderot, Balzac, Thomas Hardy, H. Rider Haggard, Elizabeth Bowen, and others and the ways in which the woman who desires women has been cast as not quite human, as ghost or vampire.
She writes about the ever-present triangle, found in novels and plays from the last three centuries, in which a woman and man compete for the heroine’s love . . . about how—and why—same-sex attraction is surprisingly ubiquitous in crime fiction, from the work of Wilkie Collins and Dorothy L. Sayers to P. D. James.
Finally, Donoghue looks at the plotline that has dominated writings about desire between women since the late nineteenth century: how a woman’s life is turned upside down by the realization that she desires another woman, whether she comes to terms with this discovery privately, “comes out of the closet,” or is publicly “outed.”
She shows how this narrative pattern has remained popular and how it has taken many forms, in the works of George Moore, Radclyffe Hall, Patricia Highsmith, and Rita Mae Brown, from case-history-style stories and dramas, in and out of the courtroom, to schoolgirl love stories and rebellious picaresques.
A revelation of a centuries-old literary tradition—brilliant, amusing, and until now, deliberately overlooked.
From the much-admired literary critic, novelist, and scholar—a book that illuminates the long-standing but little-known tradition of love between women in English and other Western literature from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
Chaucer and Shakespeare, Coleridge and Charlotte Brontë, Dickens and Diderot, Agatha Christie and Lillian Hellman—writers of every age have addressed the “unspeakable subject” of one woman’s passion for another, questioning whether such desire is freakish or omnipresent, holy or evil, heartwarming or ridiculous. Now Emma Donoghue brings to bear all of her celebrated erudition and wry insight on the theme of desire between women—from schoolgirls to vampires to runaway wives; from cross-dressing knights to contemporary murderers. She writes about the half-dozen contrasting girl-girl plots that have been retold over the centuries, and explores how they have changed from generation to generation and how all the writers, acutely aware of the potential dangers of the subject, did their best to veil what they were writing about even as they exploited its appeal.
A brilliant, witty, and revelatory book that restores an age-old literary tradition to its rightful place in our cultural history.
About the Author
Emma Donoghue is the author of sixteen books, including the best-selling novels Slammerkin, Life Mask, and Room. Donoghue’s reputation as a literary historian has grown with the publication of two anthologies: Poems Between Women (1997) and The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories (1999). Donoghue has lectured at universities in Ireland, Britain, and the United States on Irish studies and eighteenth-century gay/lesbian history. She lives in London, Ontario.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
The Female Bridegroom The Male Amazon
Shall We Be Sunder’d? Jealousies
Rakes vs. Ladies Feminists vs. Husbands The Beautiful House
Sex Fiends Secret Enemies Not Quite Human
Now You See It Crimes of Passion It Takes One to Know One
Case Histories On Trial First Love Devil May Care Places for Us
Suggestions for Further Reading
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