Sapphic Fathers: Discourses of Same-Sex Desire from Nineteenth-Century France

By Gretchen Schultz

© 2014

Literature that explored female homosexuality flourished in late nineteenth-century France. Poets, novelists, and pornographers, whether Symbolists, Realists, or Decadents, were all part of this literary moment. In Sapphic Fathers, Gretchen Schultz explores how these male writers and their readers took lesbianism as a cipher for apprehensions about sex and gender during a time of social and political upheaval.

Tracing this phenomenon through poetry (Baudelaire, Verlaine), erotica and the popular novel (Belot), and literary fiction (Zola, Maupassant, Péladan, Mendès), and into scientific treatises, Schultz demonstrates that the literary discourse on lesbianism became the basis for the scientific and medical understanding of female same-sex desire in France. She also shows that the cumulative impact of this discourse left tangible traces that lasted well beyond nineteenth-century France, persisting into twentieth-century America to become the basis of lesbian pulp fiction after the Second World War.

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Product Details

  • Series: University of Toronto Romance Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Illustrations: 20
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
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SKU# SP003626

  • PUBLISHED DEC 2014

    From: $51.75

    Regular Price: $69.00

    ISBN 9781442646728
  • PUBLISHED JAN 2015

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    Regular Price: $69.00

Quick Overview

Gretchen Schultz explores how male writers and their readers in late nineteenth-century France took lesbianism as a cipher for apprehensions about sex and gender during a time of social and political upheaval. 

Sapphic Fathers: Discourses of Same-Sex Desire from Nineteenth-Century France

By Gretchen Schultz

© 2014

Literature that explored female homosexuality flourished in late nineteenth-century France. Poets, novelists, and pornographers, whether Symbolists, Realists, or Decadents, were all part of this literary moment. In Sapphic Fathers, Gretchen Schultz explores how these male writers and their readers took lesbianism as a cipher for apprehensions about sex and gender during a time of social and political upheaval.

Tracing this phenomenon through poetry (Baudelaire, Verlaine), erotica and the popular novel (Belot), and literary fiction (Zola, Maupassant, Péladan, Mendès), and into scientific treatises, Schultz demonstrates that the literary discourse on lesbianism became the basis for the scientific and medical understanding of female same-sex desire in France. She also shows that the cumulative impact of this discourse left tangible traces that lasted well beyond nineteenth-century France, persisting into twentieth-century America to become the basis of lesbian pulp fiction after the Second World War.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: University of Toronto Romance Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Illustrations: 20
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘One of the amazing "take always" of this ambitious study is the uncovering of the enormous intertextual debt of the American lesbian pulp movement to the French "Sapphic fathers."


    Carol Mossman
    The French Review, vol 90:01:2016

    ‘Wide-ranging, deeply researched, beautifully expressed study of both elite and popular culture…. Highly recommended.’


    A.M. Rea
    Choice vol 52:10:2015

    “Gretchen Schultz presents a unique and novel perspective on an important topic. The final chapter is a tour de force of literary history and criticism.”


    Melanie C. Hawthorne, Department of European and Classical Languages and Cultures, Texas A&M University

    “A significant scholarly achievement. Readers whose primary interest is in cultural or intellectual history have a lot to gain from this research.”


    Peter Cryle, Emeritus Professor, Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland

    ‘Schultz succeeds brilliantly in bringing nineteenth-century French culture, social concerns and gender politics vividly to life.’


    Brian Dempsey
    The James Morgan Brown review Autumn 2016

    ‘The scholars of 19th- century France will recognize this wide ranging, deeply researched, beautifully expressed study of both elite and popular culture as a major contribution… Highly recommended.’


    A.M. Rea
    Choice Magazine vol 52:10:2015

    Sapphic Fathers analyses a vast array of literature on lesbianism written by male authors in nineteenth-century France, and whose influence can be traced into American culture and especially pulp fiction. A serious and well-documented account.”


    Laure Murat, Department of French and Francophone Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Author Information

    Gretchen Schultz is a professor in the Department of French Studies at Brown University.
  • Table of contents

    List of Illustrations
    Acknowledgements
    Preface

    Introduction: Backstories
    1. The Poetics of Lesbian Identification
    2. Tribades for Sale: Popular Fiction and Backroom Books
    3. Dystopian Sapphism: Anti-Feminism, Class Warfare, and the Elite Novel at the Fin du Siècle
    4. Scientia sapphica
    5. Intertexts and Afterlives: From the French Canon to US Pulp Fiction

    Works Cited 
    Index

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