This book offers a lens through which to read the formation of modernist autobiography as a critique of dominant sexual discourses. In this book I explore autobiography as a critical tool—as a meta-tropic genre, as a genre that can critique assumptions about the formation of sexual memory, sexual consciousness, sexual roles, sexual subjectivity.1 This is not a book that attempts to codify or define autobiography in general, but, instead, is a book that reads early-twentieth-century lesbian autobiographies as they contest the generic conventions in order to rewrite early twentieth-century scientific assumptions about human sexuality and sexual identity. My primary aim is to follow the autobiographers themselves, limiting my study to lesbian literary autobiography in the early twentieth century, as it reacts to, is complicit with, and testifies against the scientific representation of the perverse lesbian.2 I present my findings as a trajectory, exploring, specifically, the autobiographies of Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and Gertrude Stein. These four writers all question the institution of patriarchy and its reification, generally, of heterosexual desire as the only normal desire and, specifically, of lesbian desire as perverse. Autobiography, as Laura Marcus points out, has been useful in “exposing processes of exclusion and marginalisation” (1).
KeywordsHeterosexual Woman Narrative Form Queer Theory Oedipal Complex Textual System
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