Lesbian Decadence

LESBIAN DECADENCE:
Representations in Art and Literature of Fin-de-Siècle France

Golden Crown Literary Society Finalist

NICOLE E. ALBERT
Translated by Nancy Erber and
William Peniston

380 pages
25 b&w illustrations and 14 color illustrations
Cloth, $85.00 / £63.00 ISBN: 9781939594075
Paper, $40.00 / £30.00 ISBN: 9781939594204
E-book, $24.99 / £19.00 ISBN: 9781939594211

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“At last Nicole Albert’s landmark study of the place of “the lesbian” in fin-de-siècle French culture is available in English! Exhaustively researched and newly updated, Albert’s book draws on a wide variety of sources from literature, the arts, journalism, and the emerging field of sexology. Albert demonstrates how “sapphism” was imagined and re-imagined by observers, and how the Belle Époque vogue for lesbianism created a spectral figure both “demonized and poeticized.” Situated at the intersection of history and literature, Lesbian Decadence should be of interest to everyone interested in a deeper understanding of how culture is shaped by notions of gender and sexuality.”
Michael Wilson, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, University of Texas (Dallas)

“By far the most authoritative book on how lesbianism, with its many distinct but related aspects, is depicted in decadent discourse of the French Fin de Siècle. The book is itself a jewel of decadent criticism: multi-faceted, studded with insights, and beautifully wrought.”
Melanie Hawthorne, Ph.D., Professor of French, Department of International Studies, Texas A & M University, author of Finding the Woman Who Didn’t Exist: The Curious Life of Gisèle d’Estoc (2013) and Rachilde and French Women’s Authorship: From Decadence to Modernism (2001); Editor and translator of Monsieur Vénus by Rachilde (2004) and The Juggler by Rachilde (1990)

“An authoritative study that reveals how Sapphists were associated with the first expressions of a feminism that threw the popular imagination off balance and produced such inexhaustible fantasies.”
Marc Emile Baronheld, Elle Belgique

“A marvel of elegance and erudition… Natalie Clifford Barney the Amazon, the tortured personalities of Renée Vivien and Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, the character of Claudine so smartly portrayed by Colette, Madame Adonis by Rachilde… Albert has brought these forgotten personages back to life with passion…. The sterile and flamboyant lesbian with a mysterious and pernicious eroticism ended up embodying the spirit of the fin-de-siècle and by symbolizing to perfection the excesses of Decadence.”
S. M., Revue Inverses

“In Lesbian Decadence, Nicole G. Albert delves deeply into the history of lesbian representation and uses her finely sharpened pen to reveal to us the fascination which the descendants of Sappho exercised [on readers at the turn of the last century]… One of the greatest strengths of Albert’s book is not to stop at the canonical works but to include hundreds of sources from scholarly philology to popular caricatures.”
Laure Murat, Magazine Têtu

“This book presents a richly detailed portrait of ‘the lesbian,’ an image foregrounded in the world of arts and letters in the Belle Époque. Fantasies connected to the kinds of ‘deadly pleasures’ that women enjoyed among themselves, often when they were intoxicated by opium, resulted in an enormous number of books, articles, and illustrations that the author has brought to light for us with stunning erudition.”
P. K., Le Monde

“A prodigious achievement! Albert’s study extends far beyond the usual critique of ‘femmes damnées.’ She demonstrates persuasively that same sex desire between women permeated the print and visual culture of late nineteenth century France and was consumed as much as it was condemned. The dazzling display of illustrations alone make this book a must-have for French and Gender Studies collections.”
Robin Imhof, Associate Professor/Humanities Librarian,
University of the Pacific

“Albert’s book is a treat for American LGBT Studies researchers. She provides us with a treasure trove of paintings, drawings, and cartoons that depict the French lesbian at the turn of the century…..as well as passages that describe these same lesbians from novels, poems, and newspaper articles of the period. She then compares these depictions of French lesbians to those of French moralists and psychiatrists who either condemned their existence or took pity upon them as disordered souls. Albert’s Lesbian Decadence will not only be cited heavily in future nineteenth century LGBT Studies research, but it brings the amazing scholarship of Erber and Peniston to light as well. Best of all, due to its multiple illustrations, it is a fun read for academic non-fiction, and will inspire us in English speaking countries to learn more about our French cousins.”
Lambda Literary Foundation

“Wide-ranging yet detailed and beautifully illustrated book…includes excellent bibliography…Will inteLrest students of fin-de-siècle France, LGBTA history, and gender studies.”
CHOICE – Association of College & Research Libraries

“Indispensable to the understanding the epistemological shift that took place within Western thinking about sexuality in the nineteenth century… Provides a virtually exhaustive survey of contemporary sources depicting lesbians across all genres and traditions.”
Committee on LGBT History Newsletter (American Historical Association)

“Harrington Park Press is to be congratulated on publishing this translation, which has also permitted Nicole Albert to make revisions and introduce new material…”
Women’s History Review

“Navigates a vast amount of archival material and sources that will be an invaluable resource to scholars working on Decadence and gender and sexuality in the fin-de-siècle…”
H-France Review

“Albert’s book is a treat for American LGBT Studies researchers. She provides us with a treasure trove of paintings, drawings, and cartoons….will not only be cited heavily in future nineteenth century LGBT Studies research, but it brings the amazing scholarship of Erber and Peniston to light as well. Best of all, due to its multiple illustrations, it is a fun read for academic non-fiction, and will inspire us in English speaking countries to learn more about our French cousins..”
Lambda Literary