Homosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Context and Critical Texts

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No 3 & 4 Spring/Summer 1991. 

Cover of Homosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Context and Critical TextsHomosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Context and Critical Texts. Edited with an introduction by George Stambolian and Elaine Marks. Cornell University Press, 1990. (Reprint of 1979 edition) Paper. $12.95. (ISBN 0-8014-9766-3)

Here is an interesting and significant scholarly collection, translated from the French, of twenty-three distinctly “French” essays by and interviews with well-known French writers and literary critics defining the concept/concepts of “homosexualities” in the French literary tradition.

French writers, especially since the “late 18th Century” have had a long love affair, as it were, with homosexuality and have attempted to define “its” parameters and come to terms with particular concepts, terms and notions by analyzing the writings of gay writers or writing of their own sexuality and personal experiences. The combined results shows little consensus on what it means in language to be “homosexual.”

The collection is divided into two distinct parts. In the first part, “Cultural Contexts,” writers and critics reveal their confusion and lack of agreement while they reconsider and restructure previous notions with a distinct cultural framework. In the second part, “Critical Texts,” writers seem to be more critical of individual homosexual writers focusing the relationship between the writer’s sexuality and his/her literary works.

This volume would indeed enlighten studies of French literature. It is a welcome addition to most public or academic libraries.

Reviewed by Jane Jurgens
Northeastern Illinois University Library
Chicago, Illinois

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