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Heterosexual Plots and Lesbian Narratives

Marilyn Farwell

Publication Year: 1996

What is lesbian literature? Must it contain overtly lesbian characters, and portray them in a positive light? Must the author be overtly (or covertly) lesbian? Does there have to be a lesbian theme and must it be politically acceptable?

Marilyn Farwell here examines the work of such writers as Adrienne Rich, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jeanette Winterson, Gloria Naylor, and Marilyn Hacker to address these questions. Dividing their writings into two genres--the romantic story and the heroic, or quest, story, Farwell addresses some of the most problematic issues at the intersection of literature, sex, gender, and postmodernism.

Illustrating how the generational conflict between the lesbian- feminists of twenty years ago and the queer theorists of today stokes the critical fires of contemporary lesbian and literary theory, Heterosexual Plots and Lesbian Narratives concludes by arguing for a broad and generous definition of lesbian writing.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Editorial Board, Dedication

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare-book dealers, in a few university libraries...

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pp. xvii-xix

Because this project has involved over ten years of my professional life, I can only begin to single out the people and institutions that deserve my thanks. Ten to twelve years ago the study of lesbian issues in literature was not a "hot" academic...

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One: When Is a Lesbian Narrative a Lesbian Narrative?

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pp. 1-25

As a not-so-closeted lover of opera, I sometimes imagine what a lesbian opera might look like. The prospects are dim. Nineteenth-century romantic opera celebrates excessively and ecstatically heterosexual romance in a way that tests...

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Two: Narrative: The Elastic Project

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pp. 26-62

When seen as a set of ideological codes, narrative is an institution but not an innocent one, an artificial system but not an arbitrary one. It is a complex system that encodes both sexuality and gender, both of which rest upon male centrality...

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Three: The Lesbian Subject: A War of Images

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pp. 63-107

In the last one hundred years, three critical moments of theorizing the lesbian subject have put this category into discursive circulation. For some critics, these three moments constitute a progressive narrative. The story goes something...

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Four: The Romantic Lesbian Narrative: Adrienne Rich's "Twenty-One Love Poems" and Marilyn Hacker's Love, Death, and the Changing of the Season

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pp. 108-136

Sappho's lyrical poems and Shakespeare's sonnets are considered problematic homosexual texts. Vast intellectual effort has been expended to prove that these two paradigmatic poets of Western love lyricism did not write on homosexual...

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Five: The Heroic Lesbian Narrative: Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place

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pp. 137-167

The heroic lesbian narrative is one of the most popular of contemporary lesbian literary forms, whether in the story of the dashing single heroine of Rita Mae Brown's Ruby fruit Jungle or the Utopian lesbian community in Katherine...

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Six: The Postmodern Lesbian Text: Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body

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pp. 168-194

Following on the late nineteenth-century's depiction of the lesbian as a monstrous creature whose body exceeds all cultural—or what the sexologists would call "natural"—boundaries, the postmodern lesbian subject is a figure...

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Seven: Conclusion

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pp. 195-199

Narrative is, as Roland Barthes has said, everywhere (Image 79), and as such, it is or should be a recognizable part of our theoretical projects as well as our fiction. Nowhere is this structure more apparent than in the generational antagonism...

Works Cited

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pp. 201-215


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pp. 217-227

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814728840
E-ISBN-10: 0814728847
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814726402
Print-ISBN-10: 0814726402

Page Count: 227
Publication Year: 1996