Shades of Gay: Representations of Male Same-Sex Desire in French Literature, Culture, and Ideology from 1789-1926

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"Shades of Gay: Representations of Male Same-Sex Desire in French Literature, Culture, and Ideology from 1789-1926," provides a critical overview of ways of representing homosexuality in France from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. More specifically, I contend that the emergent nineteenth-century gay subculture influenced not only the way socio-political and medico-juridical sources represented and defined sexual and gender identity but that nineteenth and early twentieth century authors followed suit, contributing to the construction and deconstruction of social definitions of sexual and gender identity through literature.

The first chapter of my thesis, titled "Preparing the Palette: Gay Male Literature from 1792-1910," surveys the works of nineteenth century authors who created the framework for a homosexual epistemology that would structure representations of homosexuality during and after the nineteenth century.

In the second chapter, entitled "Through the Looking-Glass: Representations of Fin-de-Siècle Homosexuality in the Works of Jean Lorrain," I explore the influence of science on representations of homosexuality, especially with regard to criminal and degenerate images of the homosexual in the works of Jean Lorrain.

My third chapter, entitled "Scandalous Sexualities: the Baron Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen and the World of Apologetic Impropriety," addresses the relationship between scandal, journalism, and literature in the works of Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen. This chapter also questions whether Akadémos, the journal orchestrated by Fersen, can be considered France's first gay journal.

The fourth chapter, entitled, "For the Love of Boys: Ephemeral (Homo)sexuality and Platonic Politics in the Works of Achille Essebac" pioneers an analysis of the works of Achille Essebac, the first such study in English. The final chapter, titled "The Trouble with Normal: the Politics of the Closet in the Works of André Gide," analyzes the dichotomies silence/disclosure and desire/restraint in the fin-de-siècle and early twentieth century works of André Gide, contradictory notions that are of particular interest in the context of sexual and gender identity study.

Ultimately, I contend that the authors examined in my dissertation pull from social, ideological, cultural, as well as political representations of sexuality and gender to create an antagonistic and pugnacious literature that contributes to the contemporary definition of homosexuality.