Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women

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Overview

From the ancient poet Sappho to tombois in contemporary Indonesia, women throughout history and around the globe have desired, loved, and had sex with other women. In beautiful prose, Sapphistries tells their stories, capturing the multitude of ways that diverse societies have shaped female same-sex sexuality across time and place.

Leila J. Rupp reveals how, from the time of the very earliest societies, the possibility of love between women has been known, even when it is feared, ignored, or denied. We hear women in the sex-segregated spaces of convents and harems whispering words of love. We see women beginning to find each other on the streets of London and Amsterdam, in the aristocratic circles of Paris, in the factories of Shanghai. We find women’s desire and love for women meeting the light of day as Japanese schoolgirls fall in love, and lesbian bars and clubs spread from 1920s Berlin to 1950s Buffalo. And we encounter a world of difference in the twenty-first century, as transnational concepts and lesbian identities meet local understandings of how two women might love each other.

Giving voice to words from the mouths and pens of women, and from men’s prohibitions, reports, literature, art, imaginings, pornography, and court cases, Rupp also creatively employs fiction to imagine possibilities when there is no historical evidence. Sapphistries combines lyrical narrative with meticulous historical research, providing an eminently readable and uniquely sweeping story of desire, love, and sex between women around the globe from the beginning of time to the present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“. . .A fascinating book about the history of same-sex female attraction. . .reminds the reader all too poignantly never to take hard-won sexual freedoms for granted.”
-Bust Magazine

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“Rupp has given us an invaluable history that promises to inform and inspire.”
-San Francisco Chronicle

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“Rupp’s intellectually ambitious monograph attempts to present and trace the diverse threads of lesbian history in a worldwide and comparative framework... The resulting text is thought-provoking, readable, and challenging and belongs in every college and university library.”-CHOICE,

“Judicious, copious, scholarly and heartfelt, it will appeal equally to general readers and serious historians for its carefully chosen content and its novel methodology... As to methodology, Rupp is an old school historian who scrupulously recognizes the limitations of her craft, but who doesn’t let those limitations keep her from rich imaginings and a refreshingly humane interest in the historical record... Sixty six pages of endnotes attest to the seriousness of the work; over two hundred pages of lucid and accessible prose make history fun again.”-Salem Press, Magill Book Reviews ,

is the rare kind of history book that a reader might pick up thinking of glancing at just a few pages- only to discover a few hours later that she has effortlessly breezed through the entire book.” -Curve ,

Publishers Weekly
In this ambitious history of love, desire and sex between women, Rupp (A Desired Past) traces a path from antiquity to the present day, from tales of the Amazons, pirates (and possible lovers) Anne Bonny and Mary Read, communities of Montenegrin and Albanian “sworn virgins” and 1920s Berlin nightlife to the emergence of lesbian feminism in the 1970s and modern-day Thai “toms” (masculine women) and “dees” (the women who love them). She explores why studies in homosexuality have been so preoccupied with same-sex love between men and launches an investigation into the female counterpart—its penalties, manifestations, artistic depictions and the public and private life of its participants. The narrative shines when Rupp describes love between women in its many forms, whether innocent (the schoolgirl “raves” of early 20th-century England) or romantic (intense “romantic friendships” throughout the Western world) or outright erotic. With acute cultural sensitivity and a panoramic scope stretching from early Native American societies to contemporary India, Rupp delivers an academically rigorous and brilliantly told history. (Dec.)\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814775929
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Leila J. Rupp is professor of feminist studies and associate dean of the division of social sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is author of many books, including A Desired Past: A Short History of Same-Sex Sexuality in America.

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