The purpose of tags is to make information relatively easy to find. The topics covered under “people/event tags” are historical persons, authors, written works, and other specific events, organizations, or works that are the subject of the research and publications covered by the Project. This essay is intended to explain briefly how the “people/event” tags are being used.
The second purpose is to provide a tag list that the visitor can use to explore the site. The number of tags used in the project, and the organization into four different categories, doesn’t lend itself to a traditional tag-cloud. The Place and Time Period tags each have a single essay. The Event/Person and Misc. Tags will be covered in thematic groups in multiple essays due to the larger number. I’m planning six essays for the People/Event Tags, each covering a general category with several subcategories.
- Non-Fiction Sources and General Authors
- Historic Crossdressing and Passing/Transgender People
- Historic People Relevant for Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
- Literary Examples of Crossdressing or Gender Disguise
- Literary Examples of Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
- Poetry Expressing Romantic or Sexual Relationships
This present essay covers the fifth category and includes the following:
- Literary Innuendo and Flirtation
- Literary Sexual Education
- Literary Predatory Erotics
- Literary Passionate Friendship
- Literary Same-Sex Love
Obviously these categories are quite fuzzy at the edges, and I've classified individual people according to what seems the most noteworthy aspect of their lives. Every story is far more complex than a single classification. These are only for the purposes of exploring general themes.
Literary Innuendo and Flirtation
The examples in this group focus less on genuine desire between women (even in cases where gender disguise is involved) but on those where the possibility of genuine desire is acknowledged by a pretense of it or sly references. These examples include scenarios where that possibility is recognized only by the audience of the work, not by the characters within it.
Literary Sexual Education
This is a genre that allowed the author both to write explicitly (and often pornographically) about sexual encounters between women while still discounting the importance of the relationship. In these works, one woman sexually initiates another with the excuse that she is being prepared for sexual relations with men.
- Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (John Cleland) - 18th century English novel in which one woman sexually initiates another to prepare her for work as a (heterosexual) prostitute.
- Ragionamenti (Pietro Aretino) - 16th century Italian sexual “dialogues” that include sexual activity between women.
- Satyra Sotadica (Johannes Meursius) - Fictitious original source for the French L’Academie des Dames (attr. Nicolas Chorier). The Satyra Sotadica was, in turn, alleged to be a translation of an original Spanish work by a woman (Luisa Sigea de Velasco). I’ve listed this title separately as some works cite it rather than Chorier’s work (q.v.).
- The Academy of Women (L'Academie des dames) (Nicolas Chorier) - 17th century French pornographic novel presenting one woman’s sexual initiation by another and including sex between women as part of a wide variety of sexual encounters. Purported to be a translation of a Latin work Satyra Sotadica but this has been demonstrated to be fictitious. Chorier’s authorship is attributed but uncertain.
- The Spanish Bawd (Celestina) (James Mabbe) - 17th century English play (based on a Spanish original) in which a woman recruits another for prostitution by flattery, flirtation, and sexual initiation.
- Thérèse the Philosophe (Jean-Baptiste de Boyer) - 18th century French novel involving the seduction of one woman by another to recruit her for prostitution.
- Women Beware Women (Thomas Middleton) - 17th century English play involving the motif of a woman seducing another woman into prostitution.
Literary Predatory Erotics
I've taken this label from Denise Walen's discussions. It includes non-consensual relationships, cases where a woman initiates erotic contact (or pretends to) in order to further the interests of a male character, and cases where the lesbian character is portrayed as literally monstrous.
Literary Passionate Friendship
This category covers literary characters who are portrayed as being in intense romantic friendships with other women where there is no overt erotic component and typically where they are not living as a committed couple.
Literary Same-Sex Love
The stories in this group involve love between women along a broad range of natures and intensities, from the platonic to the overtly sexual. The distinction between this grouping and the Passionate Friendship grouping is an understanding by the characters that their love is equivalent to heterosexual love, both in nature and importance.
- A History of My Life (Giacomo Casanova) - 18th century Italian fictionalized biography that includes erotic encounters between women (that also include the male character).
- A Woman Appeared to Me (Renée Vivien) - Early 20th century French autobiographical novel about the author’s relationsihp with Natalie Clifford Barney.
- Agnes de Castro (Aphra Behn or Catharine Trotter Cockburn) - Note: there are two separate plays by this title but sources aren’t always clear which is being discussed, so I’ve used a combined tag when the identity is uncertain. 17th century English play about two women competing for the love of the same man. In some versions, the play ends tragically with the women bonded together.
- Agnes de Castro (Catharine Trotter Cockburn) - Note: there are two separate plays by this title but sources aren’t always clear which is being discussed. This tag identifies the later work with a stronger depiction of love between women. 18th century English play about two women competing for the love of the same man. The play ends tragically with the women bonded together.
- Añasco el de Talavera (Alvaro Cubillo) - 17th century Spanish play in which a woman competes openly with a man for a woman’s love.
- Are These Women? A Novel of the Third Sex (Sind es Frauen?) (Aimée Duc) - Early 20th century German novel about lesbian relationships.
- Babyloniaka (Iamblichos) - 2nd century Greek story (now lost) about a daughter of the king of Egypt who loved and married a woman.
- Constance Fenimore Woolson - 19th century American author who depicted women in eroticized relationships.
- Dialogues of the Courtesans (Lucian) - 2nd century Roman rhetorical dialogues (written in Greek) that include both lesbian and transgender subject matter.
- Diana Victrix (Florence Converse) - Late 19th century American novel about rivalry for a woman’s love that, somewhat unusually, ends with a female couple.
- Het Land in Brieven (Elisabeth Post) - 18th century Dutch novel depicting two women in a marriage-like relationship.
- Hungerheart: The Story of a Soul (Christabel Gertrude Marshall (aka Christopher Marie St John)) - Early 20th century English novel. A semi-autobiographical novel of the author’s relationship with a woman and involvement in the suffrage movement.
- Iphis (Henry Bellamy) - 17th century English play based on Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe, q.v.
- Iphis et Iante (Benserade) - 17th century French play based on Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe, q.v.
- Journey Through Every Stage of Life (Sarah Scott) - 18th century English novel concerning the adventures of two women with a close emotional bond, though there is a heterosexual resolution at the end.
- L’Espion Anglois (Mathieu François Mairobert) - 18th century Fench novel that forms a prototype for male-gaze lesbian pornography.
- La Celestina (Fernando de Rojas) - 15th century Spanish novel in dialogue in which an older woman sexually arouses a young one as an intermediary for a man’s seduction. This work also partakes of the “sexual education” motif.
- Lady Mary Montague - 18th century English woman who wrote about same-sex relations within Turkish harems while accompanying her husband, the ambassador to the Ottoman court. She also engaged in passionate romantic correspondence with women.
- Lélia (George Sand) - 19th century French novel that includes themes of love between women.
- Les Guérillères (Monique Wittig) - 20th century French novel depicting a lesbian society.
- Lila and Colette (Catulle Mendès) - 19th century French novel depicting classical Greek lesbianism.
- Mademoiselle de Maupin (Théophile Gautier ) - 19th century French novel very loosely inspired by the life of Julie d’Aubigny (q.v.), depicting the title character as bisexual and possibly non-binary.
- Mademoiselle Giraud My Wife (Adolphe Belot) - 19th century French novel from the point of view of a man who is naively oblivious to his wife’s lesbian relationship.
- Méphistophéla (Catulle Mendès) - 19th century French novel with lesbian themes.
- Metamorphoses: Iphis and Ianthe (Ovid) - 1st century BCE Roman poem about the love between two girls, one of whom has been raised as a boy, resolved when the goddess Isis transformed Iphis into a boy. This story was reworked repeatedly in Western literature and can reasonably be considered one of the foundational lesbian/transmasculine plots.
- Nana (Émile Zola) - 19th century French novel depicting lesbian bar culture among prostitutes.
- Nihayat Al-Arb Fi Funoon al-Adab (Al-Nuwayri) - 13th century legend in Arabic about how lesbianism originated.
- Norma Trist (John Wesley Carhart) - 19th century American novel based on the real-life murder of Freda Ward by her lover Alice Mitchell.
- Onania or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution (Balthazar Bekker?) - 18th century English “true confessions” style anecdote about sex between women (framed as mutual masturbation).
- Paul et Virginie (Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre) - 18th century French novel involving two women who, after failing in heterosexual relations, for a marriage-like bond.
- Plato - Classical Greek writer whose Symposium explained love as the result of separated two-bodied humans seeking to reunite with their “other half”. This story explicitly includes same-sex love.
- Rughum and Najda - 9th century Arabic story of the tragic love affair of two women.
- Ruth & Naomi (Bible) - Biblical story in which a woman expresses love and devotion to her mother-in-law.Although not framed as romantic, the text has been viewed as Biblical support for intense emotional bonds between women.
- The Book of Hind - 9th century Arabic story of a woman credited as being the “first lesbian”.
- The Deserving Favorite (Lodowick Carlell) - 17th century English play with a complex romantic polygon that includes an emotional bond between two women that is equated with marriage.
- The Dove’s Neck-Ring about Love and Lovers (Ibn Hazm) - A 10th c Spanish-Arabic text on love that has one passing reference to lesbianism.
- The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (Eliza Haywood) - 18th c English novel by an author who often focused on themes of female passionate friendship and erotic attraction.
- The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (Eliza Haywood) - 18th c English novel by an author who often focused on themes of female passionate friendship and erotic attraction.
- The New Atalantis (Mary Delarivier Manley) - 18th century English novel with a satirical/eutopian depiction of an all-female society, including romantic/erotic relationships.
- The Passionate Lovers (Lodowick Carlell) - 17th century English play involving gender disguise but where a woman declares her love for the disguised woman after her true sex is revealed.
- The Pilgrim (John Fletcher) - 17th century English play involving the unrequired love of a maid for her mistress, which love is equated to that of marriage.
- The She-Wedding: or a Mad Marriage at Deptford - 17th century English pamphlet relating a marriage (involving gender disguise) between two women to cover for a pregnancy.
- The Travels and Adventures of Mademoiselle de Richelieu (Erskine) - 18th century English picaresque novel involving two women both traveling in male disguise who regularly joke about marrying each other and end living together as women.
- The Well of Loneliness (Radclyffe Hall) - Early 20th century English novel considered to be the first overtly lesbian novel.
- Yde and Olive - Medieval French romance (several variants fom the 13-14th centuries) involving a gender-disguised woman who wins the love and hand of a king’s daughter. Depending on the variant, the story either resolves with a divinely-mediated sex change or by marrying both women off to each other’s fathers.