Comprising eleven short stories by such 19th-century American writers as Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, and Mary E. Wilkins, this breakthrough anthology celebrates a rich historical tradition in American lesbian literature. A stunning collection, this book is a milestone for anyone interested in literary history as well as gay and women's studies.
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Eleven stories by 19th-century women writers that editor Koppelman convincingly argues are about romantic lesbian love. In her introduction and in commentaries on the individual stories themselves, Koppelman (editor of The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, not reviewed) demonstrates the many different ways that lesbianism could be camouflaged, or made ambiguous, so as to ensure the social acceptability of story and author. The result is an intriguing smorgasbord of short fiction that should delight not only students of gay and women's studies and literary historians, but also general readers with a passion for the literature of the time. The stories themselves are lovely, well-crafted gems from the likes of Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Kate Chopin. The quality and breadth of Koppelman's research is evident. Her sensitive, close readings of each work do not seek to force a particular interpretation on the reader; rather, Koppelman puts the stories in a literary and historical context and offers suggestions that allow the readers to tease lesbian sensibilities from the texts. Koppelman's keys to reading the stories are often as interesting as the stories themselves. She convincingly asserts, for example, that ghost stories like Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's ``Since I Died'' or riddle tales such as Constance Fenimore Woolson's ``Miss Grief'' are particularly good mediums for alluding to lesbian themes, because so much is left to the imagination of the reader that any intended ``impropriety'' on the part of the author cannot be proven. It is the subtlety both of the authors collected here and of the editor who draws them together that keeps the pages turning. A marvelous collection that deserves a wide audience. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
This collection describes romantic attachments between women. The subject would not be extraordinary had the stories not been written in the late 19th century by some of the most respected American authors, including Mary Wilkins Freeman, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Sarah Orne Jewett. Lesbian love was not a conventional theme of 19th-century American literature and had to be muted in these stories. Thus, Phelps writes about a woman torn between being fulfilled in the spiritual realm after she leaves her body and being separated from her one true love, the woman mourning beside her casket, in "Since I Died." Writer/historian Koppelman (May Your Days Be Merry and Bright, NAL/Dial, 1991) carefully documents the professional and personal lives of these authors to put their work in literary and historical perspective. Most important, she decodes elements and symbols in the stories that were popular in the 19th century but might be unfamiliar to contemporary readers. This exceedingly important contribution to the study of women's history and lesbian literature in America is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.
Lisa Nussbaum, Euclid P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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