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Monday, 25 April 2011

Nicky Hallett, Lesbian Lives: Identity and Auto/Biography in the Twentieth Century (1999)

This book is perfectly okay for what it does, but I'm not sure it's a book of particular relevance to my particular purposes at this moment. It's much more about lesbian representation/self-representation in various texts. In some cases I was not entirely persuaded that certain imagery clusters or tropes are quite as specific to woman-woman relationships as she suggests, or at least, I would have liked a bit of compare/contrast as to how certain metaphors played out differently in self-consciously lesbian texts.

It was published before work by Laura Doan, Alison Oram, Martha Vicinus and Deborah Cohler which have substantially nuanced our own understanding of historical understandings of female same-sex desire and relationships and lesbian self-fashioning, and significantly queried the extent to which sexological categories were in play.
It contains a confusing citation to a work of 1928 on Sexual Inversion by John Addington Symonds as if this were contemporaneous with The Well of Loneliness and JAS suffering from 'the paranoia of the imperialist' apropos homosexuality (rather than an early homophile advocate). Whatever text it was that was published in New York in 1928, and reprinted in 1984, if it was really by JAS it was written before 1893 (when he died) and one would like to know why, how, and by whom it was being republished at that date, given that Symonds' family and literary executors had taken enormous pains to persuade Havelock Ellis to remove the traces of Symonds' collaboration from their jointly-authored version of Sexual Inversion. It appears to have been the volume Studies in Sexual Inversion Embodying a Study in Greek Ethics and a Study in Modern Ethics published in 1928, but I am not sure what the impetus was behind issuing an omnibus edition. This was one of a number of points where I felt the close-reading focus was perhaps leaving out significant contextual matter or chronology. But that may be to do with the sort of thing I am looking for at the moment.

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