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Comparative Sapphism

Marcus, Sharon

Comparative studies of British and French literature have paid little attention to sapphism even though critics have long defined the difference between the two national literatures as sexual, particularly with respect to the novel. For most comparatists the sexual difference between nineteenth-century British and French literature is exclusively heterosexual: against the staid British novel of courtship throbs the French novel of adultery. But the lack of any British counterpart to the sapphism that thrived in France shows that the difference between the two literatures is also homosexual. With respect to heterosexuality, nineteenth-century French and British novels offer a contrast between two kinds of presence; with respect to sapphism, the contrast is between presence and absence. It would thus seem that the critic who compares nineteenth-century French and British sapphism is in the paradoxical position of comparing something to nothing.

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Also Published In

Title
The Literary Channel: The Inter-National Invention of the Novel
Publisher
Princeton University Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Published Here
March 4, 2013