From a writer of astonishing versatility and erudition, the muchadmired literary critic, novelist, shortstory writer, and scholar (yes'>#8220;Dazzlingyes'>#8221;yes'>#8212;The Washington Post; yes'>#8220;One of those rare writers who seems to be able to work on any register, any time, any atmosphere, and make it her ownyes'>#8221; yes'>#8212;The Observer), a book that explores the littleknown literary tradition of love between women in Western literature, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Charlotte Brontyes'>#235;, 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 crossdressing knights to contemporary murder stories. Donoghue looks at the work of those writers who have addressed the yes'>#8220;unspeakable subject,yes'>#8221; examining whether such desire between women is freakish or omnipresent, holy or evil, heartwarming or ridiculous as she excavates a longobscured tradition of (inseparable) friendship between women, one that is surprisingly central to our cultural history.
Donoghue writes about the halfdozen contrasting girlgirl 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 changedyes'>#8212;or havenyes'>#217;tyes'>#8212;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 everpresent triangle, found in novels and plays from the last three centuries, in which a woman and man compete for the heroineyes'>#8217;s love . . . about howyes'>#8212;and whyyes'>#8212;samesex 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 womanyes'>#8217;s life is turned upside down by the realization that she desires another woman, whether she comes to terms with this discovery privately, yes'>#8220;comes out of the closet,yes'>#8221; or is publicly yes'>#8220;outed.yes'>#8221;
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 casehistorystyle stories and dramas, in and out of the courtroom, to schoolgirl love stories and rebellious picaresques.
A revelation of a centuriesold literary traditionyes'>#8212;brilliant, amusing, and until now, deliberately overlooked.
From the Hardcover edition.