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Ineffable Gomorrah: The Performance of Lesbianism in Colette, Proust, and Vivien

From: Women in French Studies
Volume 20, 2012
pp. 9-20 | 10.1353/wfs.2012.0013



In Le Pur et l'impur, Colette famously decries Proust's depictions of lesbians in A la recherche du temps perdu. However, when comparing Proust's Gomorrahn portrayals to other literary characterisations of lesbians at the turn of the century, one finds strong similarities. What Colette does not directly identify, but what becomes an underlying message in her book as she talks about Renée Vivien and the Ladies of Llangollen, among others, is that due to the strong influence of anti-lesbian social opinion of the fin de siècle, it was impossible for anyone, even a lesbian such as Vivien, to write about a female homosexual experience without the text becoming a sort of performance.