Lesbian eXcursions: Excursus

Lesbian eXcursions: Journeying through the personal narrative – Excursus

© Nicki Hastie

Dissertation submitted for the degree of M.A. Modern Literature: Theory and Practice, University of Leicester 1991

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Some parts of this dissertation were revised and subsequently published as Nicki Hastie, “Lesbian Bibliomythography” in Gabriele Griffin (ed.) Outwrite: Lesbianism and Popular Culture London: Pluto Press, 1993 pp.68-85


(A number in square brackets, e.g. [1] indicates a link to a footnote)


I do not wish to write a ‘Conclusion’ because this word signals to me an ending, the action of narrative closure. This would contradict the coming out process which is continuous and open-ended.

Towards the 1990s, the lesbian narrative of self-discovery or coming out story has been moving further away from the more direct parallels with traditional Bildungsroman which Bonnie Zimmerman was able to report in her “Exiting from Patriarchy” essay. Without the exit from patriarchy, the Lesbian Nation mythology falls flat. But it is at this point that different kinds of exploration become realisable. In another essay, Zimmerman had identified an area of interest for lesbian writers and readers: “lesbians may also question whether the incarnation of a ‘politically correct’ but elusive and utopian mythology provides our only appropriate role model”. [82] I believe that Miss X or The Wolf Woman attempts to discover a New Rhetoric which is not only capable of hijacking Patriarchy from within, but also of re-working stale lesbian mythologies. Without heroising, Miss X or The Wolf Woman makes conscious use of mythology (lesbian or otherwise) in an effort to create a more individualised understanding of lesbian identity. This is so, even when the text seems to deconstruct the notion of identity altogether, for deconstruction is not a disavowal. [83] Some of the most exciting recent lesbian writing attempts a playful relationship with questions of identity.

Even if the political climate has appeared bleak and unsettled for lesbians and gay men (occasionally the dominant majority’s scapegoat) in the last few years, I feel I should be able to find something optimistic in the changes which are being explored through lesbian personal narratives. Lesbian writers are beginning to detail lesbian experience without recourse to the icon of either the Victim or Hero. Different sources may be discovered allowing an examination of personal weakness and the failings of the State/dominant society’s failings. The personal narratives which will appear in the next few years “may perhaps be discussing the complexities of … a hitherto unexplored theme – the repercussions of ‘The Clause’ [Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 – see note 28]”. [84]

I imagine these narratives to continue the tension between affirmations of lesbian identity (lesbians responded to Clause 28, as it was originally, with terrific mobilisation and political solidarity) and personal uncertainties and vulnerabilities (because of the uncertainty surrounding the implications of Section 28, and because the strong sense of community which existed in the fight against the Clause has dissipated somewhat since). The fight against the Clause marks a significant moment in my biography. This is probably the most significant event (in the British history of lesbian and gay culture) to have occurred during my coming out story. The details of that part of the story, however, will have to wait until another time.


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