Book review: Lesbian Decadence, written by Nicole E. Albert, translated by Nancy Erber and William Peniston

Harrington Park Press, well-known for publishing literature pertaining to the LGBTQ community, re-issued a magazine exclusively featuring lesbian artwork from Paris’ Decadent movement.

The collection was originally published by Nicole G. Albert in 2005 and the reissue features illustrations from the 1800-1900s that portray lesbianism during the Belle Époque or Beautiful Era. During Belle Époque, the arts flourished and lesbians no longer hid themselves. The movement was a huge step forward for the LGBTQ community moving forward and for the unapologetic portrayals of their lives through art.

Harrington Park Press describes the magazine, Lesbian Decadence: Representations in Art and Literature of Fin-de-Siècle France as, “a new analysis and synthesis of the depiction of lesbianism as a social phenomenon and a symptom of social malaise as well as a fantasy in that most vibrant place and period in history.”

The magazine contains 380 pages of illustrations and articles.

Translators Nancy Erber and William Peniston included a reference to the Decadent movement in Paris.

The movement represented the notion of excess through artwork and the Belle Époque played a large role in the movement.

In the prologue important issues regarding sapphism, the Decadent movement, and how women’s studies were gaining legitimacy at the time.

The Golden Crown Literary Society awarded the magazine with the Golden Crown Award for Lesbian Nonfiction.

In terms of the magazine’s reception, praise poured in from scholars and other publications everywhere. Of them, the magazine was applauded for representing the lesbian and the movement in a time where lesbians were considered “disordered souls.”

Bill Cohen, the co-founder of Harrington Park Press told BuzzFeed News in an interview that even though lesbians weren’t arrested for the sexual orientation in that time period, “Moralists pitied them.”

“In popular society, however, lesbianism was flaunted,” he continued. “Some paintings, no doubt, shocked the public in the early 1900s.”

Reviewed by Providr Contributor