Formation of 20th-Century Queer Autobiography: Reading Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, and Gertrude Stein

Formation of 20th-Century Queer Autobiography: Reading Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, and Gertrude Stein

by Georgia Johnston
     
 

In their literary autobiographies, modernists Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) challenge the scientific figures of the perverse lesbian, particularly those promulgated by Havelock Ellis and Sigmund Freud. By multiplying their "I"s, manipulating subject and object divisions, undermining boundaries between writer and

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Overview

In their literary autobiographies, modernists Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) challenge the scientific figures of the perverse lesbian, particularly those promulgated by Havelock Ellis and Sigmund Freud. By multiplying their "I"s, manipulating subject and object divisions, undermining boundaries between writer and audience, and using repetition to code erotic moments, these writers queer the terms of autobiography. That queering requires understanding autobiography as more institutional than introspective, and the autobiographies themselves question the very theories that determine them: theories of lesbianism, female development, and memory.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of modernism and early 20th century autobiographical lesbian literature. Devoting chapters to Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and Hilda Doolittle, Johnston traces how the autobiographical writings of these women contradict the dominant scientific view of the lesbian as represented in the writings of Havelock Ellis in sexology and Sigmund Freud in psychology. Johnston supports this thesis with creative, insightful, and original interpretations of some important yet less well-known works by these writers. For each of the authors she discusses, she demonstrates thorough knowledge of their lives, body of work, and the relevant theoretical and critical scholarship."--Eileen Barrett, Professor of English, California State University, East Bay

"Johnston's book is an enjoyable read with many rewards for its audience. She is on sure footing in her reading of contemporary theory, Freud and the sexologists, and especially the lesbian modernist autobiographers who are her focus. In her compelling readings she argues that Sackville-West, Woolf, Doolittle, and Stein engaged scientific theories of the perverse lesbian and other models from early psychology and sexology in order to write a new lesbian subject in a distinctly modernist version of autobiography. Figuring the lesbian differently in autobiography creates fertile ground for seeing both new, as Johnston's study deftly reveals. The study of modern lesbian autobiography is deeply enriched by Johnston's complex and convincing work."--Andrea L. Harris, Associate Professor, Mansfield University; Author of Other Sexes: Rewriting Difference from Woolf to Winterson and co-editor with John M. Ulrich of GenXegesis: Essays on Alternative Youth (Sub) Culture
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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781403976185
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication date:
05/28/2007
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)

Meet the Author

Georgia Johnston is Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies at Saint Louis University.

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