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Literary lesbian love

By Harriet Staff

From cross-dressing Ovid to sexually confused spinsters, Emma Donoghue chronicles the Sapphic subtext beneath “plutonic” female relationships in Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature. Jessa Crispin’s review at The Smart Set explores how the book illuminates shadowy corners of the “old girls’ club.” It is also a commentary on the universal paradox of love, the powerful, euphoric kind that makes “you want to cut out your still beating heart just to make the pain stop”:

Inseparable is the result of her decades-long search. I was afraid the book would be reminiscent of oh so many women’s studies classes, teasing out hidden or nonexistent lesbian themes from classic works, inspecting the orphanage scenes of Jane Eyre to determine whether young Jane and Helen crossed over from friends to something more. Or like Foster’s projections onto Jackson. Donoghue’s book is instead more joyful and more wide-ranging. It’s a romp through centuries of dirty lesbian love, from Ovid to de Musset, from Louisa May Alcott to 20th century pulp novels. Horrible stereotypes of corrupting older women seducing young innocents and the lesbian as primitive do abound, as does that ever so popular way of dealing with a character with a deviant sense of morality: the tragic death. But it’s a much more lively and open history than you might imagine . . .

Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, July 16th, 2010 by Harriet Staff.