looking for lesbian erotica published 1920-1940
April 15, 2006 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on an anthology of lesbian erotica. It needs to have been published between 1920 and 1940 (any country) and should hopefully be in the public domain. I'm looking for short stories or novels (or excerpts of novels), no pictures or poetry.

I am of course doing my own research, but so far have not come up with much. Any links, suggestions of places to look, or names of actual books/stories/authors would be much appreciated.
posted by misanthropicsarah to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow, have you found much from that time period? Most of the lesbian pulp fiction I've seen is post-1940. Maybe try asking the folks at the Lesbian History Project; they have a list of archives that might be relevant. Then maybe try contacting some of the older lesbian publishers?
posted by mediareport at 9:42 PM on April 15, 2006

Anaïs Nin fits the time period, and her work included lesbian stories.
posted by slater at 10:43 PM on April 15, 2006

Just FYI, anything published prior to 1923 will be in public domain (assuming you are in the U.S.) However, the majority of materials published either within the U.S. or abroad from 1923 on will still be under copyright; the only exception will be works pubilshed between 1923 and 1977 for which the copyright was not renewed by the publishers at the appropriate time; this usually restricts it to fairly obsure and hard-to-find works.

Good luck; the time period you're looking at is well before the heydey of the lesbian pulps, and there wasn't a heck of a lot of lesbian literature prior to that.
posted by kyrademon at 12:45 AM on April 16, 2006

I've been poking around the net for works that might fit the bill. Some of what I've found really doesn't fit the bill of "erotic", unfortunately. You might want to check out the works of Colette. There are lesbian passages in Claudine Married (1902) and Tendrils of the Vine (1908). The diaries of Anais Nin, suggested above, are also a good idea ... Vol. 1 and 2 of the collected works go up through 1923, so are mostly in public domain ... Victor Margueritte's 1922 novel La Garçonne might have passages worth checking out, as well.
posted by kyrademon at 1:05 AM on April 16, 2006

Similar to mediareport's post, you might want to check out the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC (tip o' the hat to its founder Joan Nestle). They might be able to put you on the right track.

And the only things that came to my mind in terms of erotica (which differs greatly from erotica as published today) were the Ann Bannon novels (I read a bunch at one time...and no I'm not THAT old) and, of course, The Well of Loneliness. But it's been so long since I've read the latter, that I don't recall how "erotic" it may have been. Definitely depressing, though.
posted by bim at 5:55 AM on April 16, 2006

Ignoring the public domain issue which could be tricky, check the women's studies journals and take a look at the bibliography in various articles. The Project Muse database might be handy. Here's an example.

Also, this book might give you some ideas -- Surpassing the Love of Men : Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present.

Good luck. This sounds like an interesting topic.
posted by bim at 6:45 AM on April 16, 2006

Jeannette H. Fosters's book, "Sex Variant Women in Literature," is what you need. With this bibliography in hand, you can hunt down specific works. "Ranging from the Biblical Ruth and Sappho through creative works in all languages of Western Europe...Foster analyzes poetry, drama and fiction for all reference to Lesbians and Lesbianism." It was published in 1956, updated in 1975 and 1985. Foster was a librarian at the (Kinsey) Institute for Sex Research from 1948-1952. I bought a remaindered copy in 1960 and spent years combing libraries for the books Foster alerted me to.

As for "The Well of Loneliness," be aware it was published in 1927 (and banned as obscene in England) and aimed at mainstream readers. Definitely depressing, but no one died at the end!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:51 AM on April 16, 2006

Definitely depressing, but no one died at the end!

We've come along way from "the love that dare not speak its name" to -- as the comedian Kate Clinton put it -- "the love that won't shut up!"

Thank god.
posted by bim at 7:01 AM on April 16, 2006

You've looked at Terry Castle's big book, I presume? (The linked page gives a full list of contents, so you can see exactly what she includes. It's pretty damn impressive -- everything from Aleister Crowley to Michael Field to 'Lesbian Blues Lyrics of the 1920s'.)

If it's smut you're after, then the standard guide is Peter Mendes, Clandestine Erotic Fiction in English, 1800-1930, though most of the lesbian stuff in there will probably have been written by men for men.
posted by verstegan at 2:46 PM on April 16, 2006

This is some great information, thanks, and keep it coming!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:24 PM on April 16, 2006

The book I was working on has published. I wasn't able to be as much help to the editors as I'd hoped--the restriction of being in the public domain (to avoid costly permissions fees since it's a small publisher) made it an even more difficult project.

But, after a lot of hard work and some long nights, the editors came through.

The book is The Golden Age of Lesbian Erotica 1920-1940, edited by Victoria A. Brownworth and Judith M. Redding.

Thanks for all of the suggestions in this thread, some of them were quite helpful!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:15 AM on January 22, 2007

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