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Only Lesbian Mature

Lesbian literature is a subgenre of literature addressing lesbian themes. It includes poetry, plays, fiction addressing lesbian characters, and non-fiction about lesbian-interest topics.

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Lesbian literature includes works by lesbian authors, as well as lesbian-themed works by heterosexual authors. Even works by lesbian writers that do not deal with lesbian themes are still often considered lesbian literature. Works by heterosexual writers which treat lesbian themes only in passing, on the other hand, are not often regarded as lesbian literature.[citation needed]

The fundamental work of lesbian literature is the poetry of Sappho of Lesbos. From various ancient writings, historians have gathered that a group of young women were left in Sappho's charge for their instruction or cultural edification.[2] Not much of Sappho's poetry remains, but that which does demonstrates the topics she wrote about: women's daily lives, their relationships, and rituals. She focused on the beauty of women and proclaimed her love for girls.[3]

Certain works have established historical or artistic importance, and the world of lesbian fiction continues to grow and change as time goes on. Until recently, contemporary lesbian literature has been centered around several small, exclusively lesbian presses, as well as online fandoms.[4] However, since the new millennium began, many lesbian presses have branched out to include the works of trans men and women, gay and bisexual voices, and other queer works not represented by the mainstream press. Additionally, novels with lesbian themes and characters have become more accepted in mainstream publishing.[citation needed]

The European Middle Ages lacked a specific term for lesbians, but medieval French texts, under the influence of the Arabic literature of the period, featured literary depictions of love and sexual desire between women. Such expressions are found in devotional texts to the Virgin Mary or the hagiography of Ida Louvain, by Beguines, or the writings of female Christian mystics, including Hildegarde of Bingen, Hadewijch, Margery Kempe, Mechtild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete.[5]

Though lesbian literature had not yet evolved as a distinct genre in English in the 19th century, lesbian writers like the essayist and supernatural fiction writer Vernon Lee sometimes hinted at lesbian subtexts in their work[8] or, like Lee's lover Amy Levy, wrote love poems to women using the voice of a heterosexual man.[9] Others wrote, but kept their writing secret. Beginning in 1806, English landowner and mountaineer Anne Lister kept extensive diaries for 34 years, which included details of her lesbian relationships and seductions, with the lesbian sections written in secret code. The diaries were not published until the 1980s.[10] In 2010, they were the basis for a BBC television production, The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.[11]

Twenty-first century writer and editor Susan Koppelman compiled an anthology titled Two Friends and Other 19th-century American Lesbian Stories: by American Women Writers,[12] which includes stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson, Octave Thanet, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, Kate Chopin and Sarah Orne Jewett that were originally published in periodicals of their time. Of these stories, which range "from the explicit to inferentially lesbian", Koppelman said, "I recognize these stories as stories about women loving women in the variety of romantic ways that we wouldn't even have to struggle to define if we were talking about men and women loving each other."[13]

Since the 1970s, scholars of lesbian literature have analyzed as lesbian relationships that would not have been labeled as such in the 19th century due to different conceptions of intimacy and sexuality. For example, Christina Rossetti's 1862 poem "Goblin Market" has been widely read as a narrative of lesbianism, even though it attempts to paint itself as a narrative of sisterly love.[14] Scholars have also seen lesbian potential in characters such as Marian Halcombe in Wilkie Collins's 1859 novel The Woman in White. Marian is described as masculine and unattractive, and her motivation throughout the story is her love for her half-sister, Laura Fairlie.[15]

Certain canonical male authors of the 19th century also incorporated lesbian themes into their work. At the beginning of the century, Samuel Taylor Coleridge published his unfinished narrative poem "Christabel". Scholars have interpreted the interactions in this poem between the titular character and a stranger named Geraldine as having lesbian implications.[19] Algernon Charles Swinburne became known for subject matter that was considered scandalous, including lesbianism and sadomasochism. In 1866, he published Poems and Ballads, which contained the poems "Anactoria" and "Sapphics" concerning Sappho of Lesbos and dealing explicitly with lesbian content.[14] Finally, Henry James portrayed a Boston marriage, considered an early form of lesbian relationship, between the feminist characters Olive Chancellor and Verena Tarrant in his 1886 novel The Bostonians.[14]

One of the more explicitly lesbian works of the 19th century is the Gothic novella Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, first published in serial form in 1871-72. Considered a precursor to and an inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, Carmilla tells the story of the relationship between the innocent Laura and the vampire Carmilla, whose sucking of Laura's blood is clearly linked to an erotic attraction to Laura. This story has inspired many other works that take advantage of the trope of the lesbian vampire.[20] It was also adapted into a YouTube webseries of the same name beginning in 2014.[21]

The first novel in the English language recognised as having a lesbian theme is The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall, which a British court found obscene because it defended "unnatural practices between women". The book was banned in Britain for decades; this is in the context of the similar censorship of Lady Chatterley's Lover, which also had a theme of transgressive female sexuality, albeit heterosexual. In the United States, The Well of Loneliness survived legal challenges in New York and the U.S. Customs Court.[22][23]

In the early 20th century, an increasingly visible lesbian community in Paris centered on literary salons hosted by French lesbians as well as expatriates like Nathalie Barney and Gertrude Stein, who produced lesbian-themed works in French and English, including Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, Idyll Saphique by Liane de Pougy, poetry by Renee Vivien, Barney's own epigrams, poetry, and several works by Stein. Radclyffe Hall also spent time in Paris at Barney's salon and modeled one of her characters in The Well of Loneliness after her.[26]

Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel of a high-spirited gender-bending poet who lives for centuries, Orlando, which was said to be based on her lover, Vita Sackville-West, was re-examined in the 1970s as a 'subversive' lesbian text.[28][29]

Most American literature of the 1930s, 40s, and early 50s presented lesbian life as tragedy, ending with either the suicide of the lesbian character or her conversion to heterosexuality.[38] This was required so that the authorities did not declare the literature obscene.[39] This would generally be achieved by placing the death or conversion in the last chapter or even paragraph.[40] For example, The Stone Wall, a lesbian autobiography with an unhappy ending, was published in 1930 under the pseudonym Mary Casal.[38] It was one of the first lesbian autobiographies. Yet as early as 1939, Frances V. Rummell, an educator and a teacher of French at Stephens College, published the first explicitly lesbian autobiography in which two women end up happily together, titled Diana: A Strange Autobiography.[41] This autobiography was published with a note saying, "The publishers wish it expressly understood that this is a true story, the first of its kind ever offered to the general reading public".[41] However, literary critics have since called the autobiography 'fictional'.[42]

Lesbian fiction in English saw a huge explosion in interest with the advent of the dime-store or pulp fiction novel. Lesbian pulp fiction became its own distinct category of fiction in the 1950s and 60s,[44] although a significant number of authors of this genre were men using either a male or female pen name.[44] Tereska Torrès is credited with writing the first lesbian pulp novel, Women's Barracks, a fictionalized story about women in the Free French Forces during World War II. The 1950 book sold 2 million copies in its first five years of publication.[45] One notable female author of lesbian pulp fiction, who came out later in life as a lesbian, was Ann Bannon, who created the Beebo Brinker series.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, considered the first lesbian novel with a happy ending,[a] was groundbreaking for being the first where neither of the two women has a nervous breakdown, dies tragically, faces a lonely and desolate future, commits suicide, or returns to being with a male. The manuscript was rejected by Highsmith's publisher Harper & Brothers and published in hardcover by Coward-McCann in 1952 under the pseudonym "Claire Morgan", followed by the Bantam Books lesbian pulp fiction paperback in 1953. The paperback editions sold almost 1 million copies.[47][48] In 1990, it was republished by Bloomsbury under Highmith's own name with the title changed to Carol [49][47] (the novel was adapted as the 2015 film of same name).

In the 1950s, parts of French author Violette leDuc's novel Ravages were censored because they contained explicit lesbian passages. The deleted passages were published in the 1960s as Therese and Isabelle and made into the 1968 film of same title.[50] 041b061a72

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