Cherchez La Femme: Looking for Lesbian Femininities in Literature, 1850–1928

  • Sarah ParkerEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


Parker’s chapter focuses on the representation of lesbian femininity in the literature from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, relating this to present-day femme identities. Parker begins by asking why queer feminine identities have been overlooked in present scholarship, contrasting this with the focus on female masculinity or butch identities. Through readings of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853), Eliza Lynn Linton’s The Rebel in the Family (1880) and Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928), Parker reveals the complexity of lesbian femininities, particularly as they relate to ideas of family, class and race. Whiteness emerges as a signifier of femme identity, problematically contributing the erasure of black femme identities. In conclusion, Parker proposes an alternative tradition of femme identity, inspired by Sappho and neo-Paganism, opening up contemporary understandings of lesbian femininity.


Lesbian femininity Queer feminine identities Female masculinity Butch identities Black femme identities Charlotte Brontë Villette Eliza Lynn Linton The Rebel in the Family Radclyffe Hall The Well of Loneliness 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of the Arts, English and DramaLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

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