Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Discussion on any 19th century written works by authors other than Hugo.
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Marianne
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Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby Marianne » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:26 pm

AKA, FRENCH PEOPLE TOTALLY WROTE ABOUT QUEER STUFF IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY

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Do you know how long I have been looking for a copy of Fragoletta by Henri de Latouche?

If the library records are to be believed, my college library has an original SIGNED edition from 1829. Just sitting there in the stacks.

jkl;jasdf

Why am I looking for Fragoletta? Well, the short answer is that it kicked off the French Romantic craze for sometimes-exploitative, always-flamboyant queer lit from the 1830s onward.

The long answer is that it's the tipping point between the 1820s Romantics' obsession with impossible/unspeakable/thwarted love (being hopelessly entangled in the Custine-Duras-Olivier scandal) and the 1830s Romantics' obsession with lesbians and androgynes. There's an almost genealogical progression to it. Chateaubriand kicks off the impossible/unspeakable love theme with his creepy incestuous overtones toward his dead sister. He strings along the Duchesse de Duras, who is madly in love with him and sick of being jerked around, and who goes on to write a series of novellas about impossible love--not just star-crossed, but societally impossible for reasons of social class or racial difference. (Somewhere along the line Stendhal gets in on the action and writes Armance, where the male lead has a never-divulged secret that prevents him from marrying Armance, and Word of God has it that the secret is impotence, which was Not Discussed In Polite Society.) Mme de Duras attempts to marry off her daughter to the Marquis de Custine, who inexplicably refuses even though he likes the girl and everything is favorable to the marriage. Mme de Duras is more puzzled than infuriated by the refusal of her daughter, and tries to figure out why Custine would do such a thing, which ends in her writing a roman à clef, Olivier ou le secret. Much like Armance, it is the tale of a perfect match that is prevented only by an unspeakable secret, and the secret is implied to be either incest or male impotence, but neither one fits perfectly. Olivier is never published. It is read only to a select circle of friends in her salon. A couple years later, Custine is found in a ditch beaten half to death by a group of soldiers, who had found out he had a rendez-vous with a strapping young officer, so his secret is out. (Like everyone else in this tale, he goes on to write a screwed up 1820s Romantic novel, whose plot is mostly made up of sublimated Gay Issues--and Family Issues brought on by him having good cause to believe he was Chateaubriand's illegitimate son. I TOLD you there was a genealogical progression here.)

Meanwhile, Olivier remains unpublished (and will remain unpublished until the late 20th century), giving rise to all sorts of lewd speculation about what it could be about. Enter Henri de Latouche, who decides to play a practical joke on his friend the Duchesse de Duras. He writes a scandalous novel about an androgyne and publishes it under the title of Olivier ou le secret, in exactly the same format as her previous novels. Mme de Duras is unamused and gets him to knock it off, but it's too late, people are publishing fake Oliviers all over the place, often with scandalous content. As for Latouche, he reworks his a bit, changes the title to Fragoletta, and publishes it under his own name.

Instant hit! Balzac rips it off in two early novellas about androgynes, entitled Seraphita and Sarrasine, then admits it was an influence on The Girl with the Golden Eyes. Gautier cites it as an influence for Mademoiselle de Maupin. Two or three years after its publication, a young Aurore Dupin comes to Paris and causes scandal by dressing as a man and publishing pseudonymously under the name George Sand, then sleeps with a few Romantic poets, then causes further scandal through her ambiguous relationship with Marie Dorval. A lesbian pornographic novel, Gamiani ou deux nuits d'excès, appears anonymously, attributed to Sand's former boy-toy Musset and purportedly about her. Androgynes! Cross-dressers! Lesbians! And good heavens, could all this have anything to do with the prison marriages and the unspeakable third sex that are sneaking their way into the healthy novelistic fascination with crime?

I've read most of the screwed up sublimated 1820s novels. I've read most of the flamboyantly queer 1830s novels. But Fragoletta, the turning point between the two, is nearly impossible to find in print. I've wanted like burning to obtain a copy for several years now.

And Smith has an autographed original edition just sitting on the library shelves? JAKL;JASFSJKL;ASD
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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MmeJavert
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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby MmeJavert » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:55 pm

Have I recently mentioned how much I love you? :lol: <3
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:10 am

You're just requiring me to give Jehan an obsession with lesbians, aren't you?
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Marianne
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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby Marianne » Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:27 am

If Musichetta can write trashy Olivier knockoffs, Jehan can be obsessed with lesbians!

Probably harem girls. We can get orientalism and lesbian fetish in at one go!
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby Frédérique » Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:09 pm

Cue Combeferre stumbling across the draft for the latest installment of his popular (pseudonymously published) series "The Education of Harem Girls", applauding the fact that young Jehan is taking questions of general education and women seriously ... until he reads a page or two and/or comes across Courfeyrac's proposed illustrations.

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Marianne
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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby Marianne » Sat Jul 31, 2010 9:08 pm

"Alas! for instead of the clear cold light of science, instead of the firm healthy support of religion, these poor creatures are instructed by nothing but the warm, soft, treacherous whisperings of the flesh, educating themselves as best they can with lovely sterile mirror images of themselves! O tragedy, O seductive but fruitless explorations..."
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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MmeJavert
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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby MmeJavert » Sat Jul 31, 2010 11:00 pm

There is a really, really awesome fanfic just waiting to be written here. :D
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

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IBelieveInYou
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Re: Lesbians and cross-dressers and androgynes, oh my!

Postby IBelieveInYou » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:06 pm

MmeBahorel wrote:You're just requiring me to give Jehan an obsession with lesbians, aren't you?

That is the most amazing idea in the world! Has anyone done it?
Then I saw their trembling features warp and, gradually,
Their foreheads turn pale and dissolve in front of me,
And everyone, like a stream that flows into a sea,
Became completely lost in a dark immensity.

Victor Hugo, The Slope of Reverie


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