Sapphic Fathers: Discourses of Same-Sex Desire from Nineteenth-Century France
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.
- Series: University of Toronto Romance Series
- World Rights
- Page Count: 320 pages
- Illustrations: 20
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
‘Wide-ranging, deeply researched, beautifully expressed study of both elite and popular culture…. Highly recommended.’
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
‘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.’
Choice Magazine vol 52:10:2015
‘Schultz succeeds brilliantly in bringing nineteenth-century French culture, social concerns and gender politics vividly to life.’
The James Morgan Brown review Autumn 2016
‘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."
The French Review, vol 90:01:2016
“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 InformationGretchen Schultz is a professor in the Department of French Studies at Brown University.
Table of contents
List of Illustrations
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
Subjects and Courses