Lesbian eXcursions: Notes

Lesbian eXcursions: Journeying through the personal narrative – Notes

© Nicki Hastie

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

If you are quoting from or printing parts of this page, please give full acknowledgement and reference as: Nicki Hastie (1991) Lesbian eXcursions: journeying through the personal narrative [WWW] https://www.nickihastie.uk/my-writing/essays/lesbian-excursions-notes (add date you visited this page)

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


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Karla Jay, “Portrait of the Lesbian as a Young Dyke” in Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation eds. Karla Jay and Allen Young (New York: Douglas Books, 1972), pp.275-77.

Part of the definition of Bildungsroman in Jerome Hamilton Buckley; Season of Youth: the Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974, pp.vii-viii.

Karla Jay, “Coming Out as Process” in Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource
ed. Ginny Vida (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1978), pp.28-30.

Introduction to Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions eds. Karla Jay and Joanne Glasgow (New York: New York University Press, 1990), p.9.

Catharine R. Stimpson “Reading For Love: Canons, Paracanons and Whistling Jo March” New Literary History 21 (1990): 957-76.

Ibid, p.958.

Ibid, p.959.

See Barbara Christian’s essay “No more buried lives: the theme of lesbianism in Audre Lorde’s Zami, Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place, Ntozake Shange’s Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple” in her Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers (New York: Pergamon Press, 1985), especially p.189. Also, Catharine R. Stimpson’s essay “Zero Degree Deviancy: the lesbian novel in English” in Writing and Sexual Difference ed. Elizabeth Abel (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982), p.244.

Karla Jay, “Coming Out as Process”, p.28

Nicole Brossard, “Lesbians of (writing) Lore” in Out the Other Side: Contemporary Lesbian Writing eds. Christian McEwan and Sue O’Sullivan (London: Virago, 1988), pp.149-50.

Ibid, p.150.

Marianne Hirsch, “The Novel of Formation as Genre: between Great Expectations and Lost Illusions” Genre 13, no.3 (Fall 1979): 300.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy: the lesbian novel of development” in The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development eds. Elizabeth Abel, Marianne Hirsch and Elizabeth Langland (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983), pp.244-57.

Introduction to The Voyage In, p.4.

Ibid, p.4.

Ibid, quoting Martin Swales, p.5.

Sandra Friedan, “Shadowing/Surfacing/Shedding: contemporary German writers in search of a female Bildungsroman” in The Voyage In, pp.304-5.

Marianne Hirsch, “The Novel of Formation as Genre”.

Jerome Hamilton Buckley; Season of Youth.

Ibid, p.17-18.

The essay on the lesbian novel of development is Bonnie Zimmerman’s “Exiting from Patriarchy”, see Note 13. above. Esther Kleinbord Labovitz’s The Myth of the Heroine: the female Bildungsroman in the twentieth century (New York: Peter Lang, 1986) examines the writing of Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing and Christa Wolf.

See Elizabeth Langland’s essay “Female stories of experience: Alcott’s Little Women in light of work in The Voyage In, pp.112-127.

Esther Kleinbord Labovitz; The Myth of the Heroine, p.8.

Rita Felski; Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: feminist literature and social change (London: Hutchinson Radius, 1989), p.51.

Ibid, p.37.

Jeffrey Weeks, “Questions of Identity” in The Cultural Construction of Sexuality ed. Pat Caplan (London: Tavistock, 1987), p.42.

Ibid, p.37.

I wish briefly to state a few examples of oppressive state legislation in Britain which discrminate against lesbians and gay men. The infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prevents local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”, an ambiguous term, but one which has proved to have dangerous implications for the censorship of lesbian and gay lives and literature in schools, colleges and libraries. Section 28 also attempts to suggest lesbian and gay lifestyles are inferior to heterosexual lifestyles by labelling lesbians or gay men and their children a “pretend family relationship”. Lesbians and gay men are currently discriminated against under fostering and adoption laws, and there have been attempts to prevent lesbian women from seeking Artificial Insemination by Donor. The age of consent for gay men remains at 21 years. Gay men are singled out under “gross indecency” laws, for example, in the recent Clause 25, which means that gay men may be potentially arrested and/or imprisoned for activities/behaviours (e.g. kissing in public) which are presumed acceptable for heterosexuals.

See, for example, Jan Hokenson, “The Pronouns of Gomorrha: a lesbian prose tradition” Frontiers 10, no.1 (1988): 62-69.

Ibid, p.65

See, for example, Catharine R. Stimpson’s “The Mind, the Body and Gertrude Stein” Critical Inquiry 3 (Spring 1977): 489-506.

Jane Gallop, quoted in Diana Fusss; Essentially Speaking: feminism, nature and difference (London: Routledge, 1990), p,104.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy”, p.244.

Jerome Hamilton Buckley; Season of Youth; Marianne Hirsch, “The Novel of Formation as Genre”.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy”, pp.245-6.

See Nicole Brossard’s words quoted in Chapter One of this study.

Tape-recorded interview with one lesbian in Barbara Ponse’s study Identities in the Lesbian World: the social construction of self (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978), p131.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy”, pp.256.

See Jane Rule; Lesbian Images (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1974), pp.194-5; and Lillian Faderman; Surpassing the Love of Men: romantic friendship and love between women from the Renaissance to the present (London: The Women’s Press, 1985), pp.406-7.

Maureen Brady, “Insider/Outsider Coming of Age” in Lesbian Texts and Contexts, p.56.

See the back cover of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle (New York: Bantam, 1977).

See Bonnie Zimmerman’s discussion of creating language out of silence in her essay “What Has Never Been: an overview of lesbian feminist criticism” in The New Feminist Criticism ed. Elaine Showalter (London: Virago, 1986), p.208; and Alison Hennegan’s “On Becoming a Lesbian Reader” in Sweet Dreams: sexuality, gender and popular fiction ed. Susannah Radstone (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1988), pp.165-90.

Elizabeth Wilson, “Tell It Like It Is: women and confessional writing” in Sweet Dreams, pp.31-36.

Ibid, p.35.

Maureen Brady, “Insider/Outsider Coming of Age”, p.56.

Ibid, pp.56-7.

Karla Jay, “Coming Out as Process”, p.28.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy”, p.254.

Rita Felski; Beyond Feminist Aesthetics, p.110.

See Valerie Miner’s essay “An Imaginative Collectivity of Writers and Readers” in Lesbian Texts and Contexts, pp.13-27.

Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” in Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985 (London: Virago, 1986).

Diana Fuss; Essentially Speaking, p.47.

Valerie Miner, “An Imaginative Collectivity of Writers and Readers”, p.23.

Marianne Hirsch, “The Novel of Formation as Genre”, p.299.

Quoted in James Mandrell, “Questions of Genre and Gender: comtemporary American versions of the feminine picaresque” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 20, no.2 (Winter 1987): 153.

Ibid, p.153.

Rita Mae Brown, “Take a lesbian to lunch” in Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation, p.191.

See the quote from Maureen Brady earlier in Chapter Two.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “The Politics of Transliteration: lesbian personal narratives Signs 9, no.4 (1984): 680.

Rita Felski; Beyond Feminist Aesthetics, pp.131-2.

Yvonne M. Klein, “Myth and Community in Recent Lesbian Autobiographical Fiction” in Lesbian Texts and Contexts, pp.330-38.

Ibid, pp.330-31.

Rita Felski discusses this point about naming of the protagonist in Beyond Feminist Aesthetics, pp.90-91.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “Exiting from Patriarchy”, p.245.

See Alison Hennegan’s “On Becoming a Lesbian Reader” and Lee Lynch’s “Cruising the Libraries” in Lesbian Texts and Contexts, pp.39-48, two personal accounts of the development of the lesbian reader.

Maggie Redding; The Life and Times of Daffodil Mulligan (London: Brilliance Books, 1984).

Alison Hennegan, “On Becoming a Lesbian Reader”, pp.166-7.

Ibid, p.187.

I wish to reject the academic convention which distinguishes between primary and secondary sources in the organisation of bibliographical information. I don’t feel able to separate my source materials into such categories, for I am emphasising the process of reading and connections between reading and development. The list of sources in the Bibliography at the back of this study are, if I have to choose between the two headings, all ‘Primary’ sources; for example, Alison Hennegan’s “On Becoming a Lesbian Reader” would conventionally be classified as a secondary source in that its format is that of a critical essay, whereas for me the interest of this
essay lies in its content which is as personal (original/primary) as Audre Lorde’s Zami. The concept of the paracanon opens up criticism as autobiography.

Alison Hennegan “On Becoming a Lesbian Reader”, p.170-1.

See the definition of Bildungsroman quoted from Jerome Hamilton Buckley in Chapter One of this study (referenced as Note 20).

Elizabeth Wilson, “Tell It Like It Is”, p.36.

Valerie Miner, “An Imaginative Collectivity of Writers and Readers”, p.16.

Elizabeth Wilson, “Tell It Like It Is”, p.34-5.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “For the Etruscans” in The New Feminist Criticism ed. Elaine Showalter (London: Virago, 1986), p.276.

For example, Rosemary Manning, seeking to protect herself from a heterosexist culture with the power to dismiss her from her job as headmistress, first published her autobiographical work A Time and A Time (1971) under the pseudonym of Sarah Davys. In order to publish a “frank discussion of lesbianism” without damaging her career, it was necessary that she re-name herself.

See Maureen Brady’s words earlier in Chapter Two.

Diana Fuss; Essentially Speaking, p.43.

See Monique Wittig’s essay “Paradigm” in Homosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Contexts/Critical Texts eds. George Stambolian & Elaine Marks (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), pp.114-21; also, the two essays “The Straight Mind” and “One is Not Born a Woman” in For Lesbians Only: a separatist anthology eds. Sarah Lucia Hoagland & Julia Penelope (London: Onlywomen Press, 1988), pp.431-48.

See an earlier quote from Jeffrey Weeks in Chapter One of this study. (Referenced as Note 27.)

Elizabeth Wilson, “Tell It Like It Is”, p.26.

Bonnie Zimmerman, “What Has Never Been: an overview of lesbian feminist criticism” in The New Feminist Criticism ed. Elaine Showalter, p.211.

See the discussion of identity politics in Diana Fuss; Essentially Speaking, pp.97-112.

Paulina Palmer, “Contemporary Lesbian Feminist Fiction: Texts for Everywoman” in Plotting Change: Contemporary Women’s Fiction ed. Linda Anderson (London: Edward Arnold, 1990), p.62.


Recent Posts

What does your love look like?

We stand with Orlando ribbonSo here I am – driven to leave my quiet-ish hiding place (of late) and send some comments out into the world. It’s hard to have anything new or powerful enough to say about the atrocity in Orlando, FL, USA this weekend, but I must register my voice of grief, outrage, solidarity and connection with LGBT+ communities and allies everywhere. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected directly through the loss and injury of loved ones, and through the weight of being witness.

Some facts are clear. A heavily-armed man murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others at the LGBT+ Pulse nightclub. This was an act of hatred and homophobia (also biphobia and transphobia), and the majority of those targeted were people of colour during a Latina/Latino/Latinx night. All believed themselves to be in a safe place of celebration during a month of worldwide Pride events.

Here are some other commentaries which say far more than I can:

Latinx LGBTQ community response from Isa Noyola interviewed on Democracy Now (warning – this video contains a shameful clip of Donald Trump taking advantage of the massacre to spread anti-Muslim hate speech).

Orlando is just the tip of the iceberg – a powerful article by Jane Czyzselska, editor of UK Diva Magazine for lesbian and bi women.

Statement from the British Psychological Society recognising that members of LGBT+ communities experience high levels of abuse, discrimination and psychological distress.

I’m sad and angry and confused. It seems to have been a default position of mine recently. But at least these emotions make sense in these circumstances, even if I will never be able to understand how someone can plan and carry out such an attack. I am unable to understand any crimes of hate, whoever is being abused and killed. I have empathy beyond the communities I specifically identify with. It’s important I say this because some despicable individuals are already using the Orlando shooting to encourage different marginalised communities to turn against each other. We must not let that happen.

News sites are reporting (surmising) today that Omar Mateen was most likely gay himself and therefore chose to kill people in a LGBTQ venue due to intense self-loathing. As if this somehow stops the attack being an act of homophobia! As if it’s suddenly explained and means all others in wider society need take no further responsibility and can file it in a tidy box which requires minimal scrutiny: Oh, that’s alright, then – it was just one queer of a certain faith we can’t be bothered to understand killing a load of other queers we can’t be bothered to understand. They only have themselves to blame!

Don’t you see? No person starts out hating themselves or others. It comes from years of indoctrination and prejudice, where instead of  being embraced and celebrated, difference and diversity are viewed as the enemy. When you think of love, what do you see? Who do you include?

On Sunday 12 June, I posted this on Facebook:

Fuck! Why do some of us care? And the rest are intent on destroying the whole world. You don’t have to understand me to not want to kill me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to hurt no-one but myself. I shouldn’t even want to hurt myself. If there was more empathy for diversity, far more of us may survive.

All of my Facebook friends are trying to comfort each other right now.

I understand something about self-hatred. I really do. The agonising attempt to explain to yourself why recognising you’re different from a so-called ‘norm’, and regularly being misunderstood, can make you feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with your whole being. That your very self is the problem. It’s sad enough when that personal inner struggle only destroys the individual experiencing it. But where does the destruction end when fear and hate is routinely justified? No-one decides to hate. It is taught and it is validated by legislation. The Orlando massacre comes after lawmakers in the US filed more than 200 anti-LGBT Bills.

This fear of difference goes way beyond sexuality. I have experienced this feeling of self-doubt, self-sabotage and insecurity around my mental health. Some of my close friends will know of a new journey of self-exploration I’m just embarking on. It’s not the time to talk about that but, ultimately, this will be positive for me, and I will write about it when I’m ready.

Actually, I’m not sure I have ever *hated* myself for being a lesbian. I just feel as if I’ve been bruised and punished a lot, and that is why the poem below refers to “being a lesbian / would be one / prompt apology.” I am who I am. I’m proud of that. I have not, do not, and I never will apologise. But I have always had to be ready to defend myself which can sometimes amount to the same thing.

It’s another blackout poem, taking words from an interview with author Emma Donoghue which appeared in the Observer Magazine on 8 May 2016. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish it didn’t mean so much. I wish I didn’t have to write about being sad, confused and fearful.

It was two weeks ago when I chose to highlight these words and create a new personal commentary. It doesn’t help much with understanding the atrocity in Orlando. But in light of the terribly sad events, perhaps I can ask you to read between the lines to find another space which invites connection, remembers to begin with love, and doesn’t have to end on hate.

Newspaper blackout poem from interview with Emma Donoghue

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