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Special Features Index  

Spotlight French Literature before the Twentieth Century
  French Literature before the Nineteenth Century provides sparse examples of homoeroticism, but Nineteenth-Century French Literature witnessed a dramatic increase in representations of same-sex eroticism, a development that can be traced both to literary trends and to historical change.  
  Aestheticism Aestheticism is a theory of art and an approach to living that influenced many European and American gay male and lesbian writers at the turn of the twentieth century. It stressed the independence of art from all moral and social conditions and judgments.  
  Balzac Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was trained in the law, but he turned his back on a conventional career to write fiction. He became one of the masters of French nineteenth-century fiction and provocatively includes both lesbian and gay male characters in his novels.  
  Charles Baudelaire Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a poet who continues to intrigue and influence writers and also an important art and literary critic. He was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.  
  Decadence Decadent Literature of the nineteenth century either describes aspects of decadent life and society or reflects the decadent literary aesthetic.  
  Michel Foucault (1926-1984), a leading twentieth-century philosopher, famously theorized that modern conceptions of homosexuality originated during the second half of the nineteenth century.  
  Joris-Karl Huysmans Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) was an important figure in the Aesthetic and Decadent movements who exemplified a style of homosexuality at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay identity.  
  Jean Lorrain Jean Lorrain (Paul Duval, 1855-1906) was a French poet, novelist, and journalist of the Decadent Movement during the Belle Époque (1890-1914). He was almost as renowned for his homosexuality and depravity as for his literary achievements.  
  Pierre Loti Pierre Loti (1850-1923) was the pen name of Julien Viaud, one of the most popular and respected French novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Loti created a series of novels that chronicle the struggle of a man to understand his homoerotic feelings and their implications for him.  
  Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) was a writer during France's Belle Époque, but he is best remembered as a dandy and an aesthete who inspired the literary creations of others.  
  Marcel Proust Marcel Proust (1871-1922) wrote A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), one of the major achievements of Modernism and a great gay novel. One of the key characters in the novel is the Baron de Charlus, based on Count Robert de Montesquiou.  
  Marc André Raffalovich Marc André Raffalovich (1864-1934) was born in Russia, raised in France, and published his most important work in England, though the book that established his reputation as an expert on homosexuality, Uranisme et Unisexualité (Uranianism and Unisexuality), was published in French.  
  Arthur Rimbaud Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), the French "boy-poet" who stressed liberation in his writing and whose art is based solely on his individual creativity, is a progenitor of modern gay poetics. He wrote most of his mature poetry during a tumultuous love affair with Paul Verlaine.  
  Marquis de Sade The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the person for whom "sadism" is named, was a prolific author of plays, stories, essays, novellas, and letters. Whether or not he was himself bisexual, homosexual activity is an important item in his program of revolutionary sexual libertinism.  
  Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin (1595-1670) was a French aristocrat who circulated in manuscript sophisticated and witty poems that celebrated sodomy, especially with male partners.  
  George Sand George Sand (1804-1876) is as infamous for her cigar-in-hand cross-dressing as she is famous for her eighty novels, twenty plays, and numerous political tracts.  
  French Theater French-speaking Theater has a long history of depicting male and female homosexuals and in exploring the complexities of homosexual life.  
  Paul Verlaine Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) is a poet who celebrates both heterosexual and homosexual activity, including lesbian relationships.  
  Theophile Viau Théophile de Viau (1590-1626) suffered attacks--often politically motivated--for his libertine morals, impious ideas, and scandalous writing. His highly personal poetry suggests he was homosexual.  
  Renee Vivien Renée Vivien (1877-1909), who had many affairs with women, openly celebrated lesboerotic love in her poetry and dreamed of women-controlled spaces in an era when most women were still domestically confined.  


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