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Women Together/Women Apart

Portraits of Lesbian Paris

Tirza True Latimer

Publication Year: 2005

What does it mean to look like a lesbian? Though it remains impossible to conjure a definitive image that captures the breadth of this highly nuanced term, today at least we are able to consider an array of visual representations that have been put into circulation by lesbians themselves over the last six or seven decades. In the early twentieth century, though, no notion of lesbianism as a coherent social or cultural identity yet existed.

In Women Together/Women Apart, Tirza True Latimer explores the revolutionary period between World War I and World War II when lesbian artists working in Paris began to shape the first visual models that gave lesbians a collective sense of identity and allowed them to recognize each other. Flocking to Paris from around the world, artists and performers such as Romaine Brooks, Claude Cahun, Marcel Moore, and Suzy Solidor used portraiture to theorize and visualize a "new breed" of feminine subject. The book focuses on problems of feminine and lesbian self-representation at a time and place where the rights of women to political, professional, economic, domestic, and sexual autonomy had yet to be acknowledged by the law.

Under such circumstances, same-sex solidarity and relative independence from men held important political implications.Combining gender theory with visual, cultural, and historical analysis, Latimer draws a vivid picture of the impact of sexual politics on the cultural life of Paris during this key period. The book also illuminates the far-reaching consequences of lesbian portraiture on contemporary constructions of lesbian identity.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-8

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pp. ix-xi

This book bears only one signature yet it bears the imprint of many hands, hearts, and minds. Kindred spirits, close friends, members of the tribe have urged me forward and accompanied me during the time it took to complete this work. I appreciate most of all the help...

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pp. 1-19

This book began as the story of one portrait—Romaine Brooks’s Self-Portrait of 1923--which has both personal and professional signiWcance to me (Wg.1). My awareness of alternatives to the scenarios of marriage and motherhood that shaped a woman’s destiny when...

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One. Lesbian Paris Between the Wars

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pp. 20-42

Despite the reactionary thrust of campaigns to restore order to post-war French society in the wake of the First World War, many of the lesbians who had achieved recognition for their professional activities during the war years maintained positions of prominence...

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Two. Romaine Brooks: Portraits That Look Back

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pp. 43-67

The lesbian society portraitist Romaine Brooks, an outstanding member of Paris’s growing population of modern women, cut a striking Wgure on the European cultural scene during the 1910s and 1920s. Her dashing fashions, raven hair, pale complexion, and penetrating...

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Three. “Narcissus and Narcissus”: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

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pp. 68-104

Like the gallery of amazon geniuses immortalized by Brooks in her portraiture of the 1920s, the photographic work generated by Claude Cahun and her lover Marcel Moore during this period takes the politics of gender and sexual identity as a central problematic....

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Four. Suzy Solidor and Her Likes

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pp. 105-135

Portraits of Suzy Solidor lined the walls of La Vie Parisienne, the cabaret where she presided—on the fringes of Paris’s exclusive Wrst arrondissement, and at the heart of what would become the city’s first gay quartier—from 1932 to 1946.1 Some of the portraits, like Yves...

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pp. 136-144

This story began in Paris with the Great War of 1914–1918. Twentieth-century warfare, with its industrial efficiency, broke faith with the Enlightenment’s promise of progress and made the creation of new systems of social engagement—or the resurrection of archaic...


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pp. 145-183

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 185-199


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pp. 201-211

About the Author

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pp. 213-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541198
E-ISBN-10: 0813541190
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813535944

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2005