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Frederics, Diana (pseudonym, fl. 1930s)  

"Diana Frederics" is the pseudonym for an author whose real identity remains a mystery. Her only known book is Diana: A Strange Autobiography, published in 1939 by the Dial Press.

Though the autobiography would seem to provide clues about the writer's life, the book was published in France in 1946 under the title Diana; roman, which translates as Diana; a novel. Thus, not only is the author's identity a mystery, but the authenticity of her "autobiography" is even more uncertain than that of other autobiographies.

Diana went out of print in the 1940s, and was reprinted in the 1975 Arno Series on Homosexuality. Few historians or literary critics have paid Diana any attention, notable exceptions being Jeannette Foster and Lillian Faderman.

Although the printing history of Diana is relatively inconsistent, and it has received little attention by scholars of gay and lesbian studies, it seems to have had a rather international appeal. In addition to the French edition of 1946, there was an edition published under the English title in India in 1939.

Diana: A Strange Autobiography is the story of a young woman who, after reading a medical text on sexuality, begins to suspect that she is a lesbian. She decides to put aside this new information until she is strong enough to deal with it and, while at college, avoids intimate contact with those women to whom she is attracted. She lives in a "trial marriage" with a young man until she decides that she has been living a lie.

The narrative follows her involvement in several relationships with women. In the concluding chapter, entitled "Fulfillment," Diana and her lover Leslie decide to stay together, remarking that "there's such a thing as vows meaning more just because they are secret."

The book is significant for several reasons. Diana is a self-identified lesbian who, though initially ashamed, develops into a politically aware and self-validated woman who is happy and fulfilled at the end of the book.

Written in the late 1930s, a period often considered a "wasteland" for lesbian literature, Diana is, as Lillian Faderman suggests, an "oasis."

But Diana is also significant because of the complicated issues it raises about the relationship of autobiography to truth, and the relationship between lesbian writers and the male-dominated medical profession, especially sexology.

The book contains an introduction by Victor Robinson, a prominent sexologist, and the autobiographical narrator also uses sexological language. Despite this medical context for the book, the narrator uses sexological language and the case history model in complicated ways that occasionally serve to validate lesbian self-representation over medical representation and to naturalize lesbianism as one possibility along a spectrum of equally valid identities.

Of course, the mystery of the real identity--and especially the gender and sexual identity--of the author complicates readings of the text. Is "Diana Frederics" a lesbian writer who appropriates medical language for her own validation and self-representation? Or is "she" really a male physician, well-versed in sexological theory, validating lesbian identity while also maintaining the control of the male physician over what gets said about lesbians?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, Diana is an interesting book that chronicles the relationship between lesbians and the larger culture, and between lesbians and the medical profession, in a narrative many will find far more satisfying than Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness.

Marylynne Diggs


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   Related Entries
literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Lesbian, 1900-1969

American lesbian literature prior to Stonewall exploited the "outlaw" status of the lesbian as it moved from encrypted strategies of expression to overt political celebrations of woman-for-woman passion.

literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Lesbian

In the first century of its existence, lesbian autobiography has moved from being coded to being outspoken, and it is both wide ranging and contradictory in the stories that it tells.

literature >> Overview:  Coming Out Stories

The coming out experience is so important to gay men and lesbians that it is a primary focus of much of their literature.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.


Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Foster, Jeannette. Sex Variant Women in Literature. 1956. Baltimore: Diana, 1975.


    Citation Information
    Author: Diggs, Marylynne  
    Entry Title: Frederics, Diana  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 2, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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