Peer Reviewed

Exclusive to M/m Print Plus

1928: Sapphic Modernity and the Sexuality of History


1928 has been widely recognized as a “banner year” for lesbian literature; Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness is only the best known of a chronological convergence that includes Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Hotel, Compton Mackenzie’s Extraordinary Women, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, to name the most prominent.[1] Extending the chronology for just a few years would yield works by Natalie Clifford Barney, Colette, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Rosamund Lehmann, Nella Larsen, Wyndham Lewis, Olive Moore, Dorothy Richardson, Gertrude Stein, Grete von Urbanitsky, Anna Weirauch, and Christa Winsloe.[2] Given the aesthetic investments of most of these writers, it’s fair to consider 1928 as both the literal and metonymic high point of sapphic modernism.[3]

I am of course far from the first to be thinking in these terms. Since the turn of this century alone, at least a dozen scholars have explored the conjunction between modernism, or the modernity that underwrote it, and an intensified literary investment in female same-sex desire.[4] Across divergent conceptions of both the sapphic and the modern, these scholars recognize a sea change in the cultural visibility of lesbianism in the wake of epistemic transformations wrought by the fin de siècle and especially by the Great War. My inquiry here owes broad debts both to recent scholars and to pioneering predecessors like Shari Benstock, Lillian Faderman, and Bonnie Kime Scott, but it reverses that scholarship’s primary emphasis on sexuality. Rather than focusing on the ways in which modernity inscribes lesbians, I am asking how representations of lesbians inscribe modernity. This shift in emphasis, which forms the methodological framework for my recent work, has already been taken up by Jodie Medd when she asks how lesbian representations “condense modern social anxieties” about “the making and unmaking of national culture, legal institutions, and artistic communities.”[5] In this more circumscribed and more speculative thought experiment, I turn the tables in a similar vein: rather than focusing on how literary works of 1928 characterize lesbians, I explore the ways in which lesbians in those works characterize the concerns of 1928.

As its coin-flipping title suggests, my book The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830, pursues the premise that we can read sexual representations for the more-than-sexual questions they engage; it asks not so much what reading emergent modernity can tell us about sexuality, but how sexuality can help us to read emergent modernity. In this same spirit, I ask what we can learn from the literature of 1928 about the significance of sexuality to overarching social, political, economic, and cultural formations of high modernity. In so doing, I move away from questions of both attitude and authorship: I am less concerned with whether a sexual representation is “positive” or “negative,” homocelebratory or homophobic, than with the preoccupations those representations share.[6] In reading ideologically diverse texts in aggregate through a practice that I call “large reading,” I also forego a focus on the biographical implications of their authorship.[7]

As I interrogate the burst of 1928 writings to ask how they explore a range of contemporary challenges, I also want to ask whether the ideas about modernity and the sapphic that I formulated for an earlier period might find analogues in the twentieth century. I wonder whether a queer approach to periodization might allow us to think about 1928 in relation to earlier (and later) moments of intensified sapphic representation without recourse to a transhistoricist or ahistoricist rubric. I should add as a perhaps salient footnote that I began my academic career as a modernist; my first three publications focused respectively on James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist (1916), Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963), and Djuna Barnes Ladies Almanack (1928); and I relish this opportunity to think about the sapphic and the modern on this later terrain. Still, this essay is admittedly a provocation from the margins of a field.

I am encouraged, however, by similarities in the imaginative constructions of both early and later modernity as what Bruno Latour calls a “break in the regular passage of time.”[8] During the long seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the European cultural imaginary recognized that break as both temporal and conceptual, as what Harvie Ferguson calls an unprecedented “consciousness of the human world as a self-generated and autonomous realm of meaningful experience,” a consciousness that rejected what it saw as the tyranny of tradition, that privileged experience as the signifier of the real, that valorized “human autonomy, novelty, and self-movement.”[9] Twentieth-century Euro-modernity and the aesthetic modernism it spawned shared this sense of a deliberate break with tradition; we need only think of Virginia Woolf’s famous pronouncement that “on or about December, 1910, human character changed,” or of the before-and-after of World War I that is traced in To the Lighthouse (1927).[10]

In The Sexuality of History, I show the ways in which modernity figures as a trope within sapphic representations themselves: from the late sixteenth through the late eighteenth century, female-female intimacies get presented as a sign of the new or the newly pervasive, whether for good or for ill. This refiguring of something old as something modern recurs in the 1928 novels and in the discussions they spawned. We might point to Stephen Gordon’s entering “a completely new world” with her passion for Collins; to the phrase “modern girls” that dots Bowen’s The Hotel; to the timing of Orlando’s transformation from woman-loving man to woman-loving woman; or to the explicit critique of “the old Tradition” in Ladies Almanack along with its emphasis on the “modern Girl” with “something” so “new on her Mind” that it extends to the fantasy of parthenogenesis.[11] The word “modern” figures as well in the reception of these works: a review of Mackenzie’s Extraordinary Women explicitly connects lesbianism to the postwar period as an “aspect of modern life” such that “in [pre-war] 1913 Extraordinary Women would have been regarded as an overblown and scandalous work.”[12] Kathryn Kent likewise sees “‘modern’ [as] a euphemism for ‘lesbian’” within a work like D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915).[13] In both early and later periods of acknowledged epistemic change, then, the sapphic and the modern become overlapping discursive domains, suggesting that what Valerie Traub calls a “meta-logic” connects these historical periods not through continuity but through shared “salience.”[14]

Both settings encourage us to ask what kind of cultural work is engaged by instantiating female same-sex desires within, and in some sense as, the fabric of modern life. It is not surprising that the most obvious effect of the sapphic in both the early modern and the modernist imaginary is that it signals a potential disruption of gender norms: in both settings, representations of the sapphic emphasize not only sexuality but what Jodie Medd calls “deviant female behaviors,” and indeed I think it is in the linkage of homoeroticism to gender insubordination that the association of the lesbian and the modern gets sealed. The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century preoccupation with the sapphic challenges an order in which the primary term linked to “woman” is “man,” introducing into the social imaginary the barely legible logic of “woman + woman.”  This logic, I argue, exposes in turn the extent to which gender underwrites the social order. But in early modernity, the sapphic can carry its imaginative resonance in part because relations between women do not yet pose a significant material challenge to European polities. By 1928, changing conditions of economic production, legal reform, kinship relations, and social habitus converge, at first gradually and then more dramatically in the wake of WWI, to afford lesbian lives a new sustainability. These conditions probably also intensify the implications of textual practices that went without censure—and sometimes even without comment—in an earlier time. Had England imposed sanctions for obscenity in the eighteenth century as it did upon The Well of Loneliness in 1928, for example, a myriad of sapphic writings by both women and men would have been censored. In 1615, even as the representational landscape was proving him wrong on the level of discourse, Joseph Swetnam was arguing that “Men, I say, may live without Women, but Women cannot live without Men.”[15] The idea that women could “live without men” had a material force in 1928 that earlier discourses could not have carried, and the greater discursive attention to sapphic subjects in the modernist period is itself a sign of different times.

Given such material differences between these European moments, I find it all the more significant—and surprising—that several of the textual patterns uniting the 1928 works resemble those I identified in earlier narratives. In my limited space here, I want especially to emphasize tropes of mobility, border-crossing, and dislocation as preoccupations for which the lesbian stands in both early and later modernity. I have given the name “sapphic picaresque” to a large body of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writings that feature upstart women whose stories follow motifs of adventure and movement and resist domesticating plots. These narratives often feature lower-class (or, less often, aristocratic) figures who survive by outwitting authorities through socially and sometimes morally transgressive acts. Most of the 1928 narratives, along with many others in the broader temporality of sapphic modernity, also cast themselves as picaresque, though usually in a privileged-class context, as I will discuss below. The pattern of narrative movement is particularly striking at a time when modernism is beginning to revive picaresque practices that challenge the conventions of domestic realism, but is investing mobility and adventure almost entirely in male characters, at least in white inscriptions of the mode: we might take as paradigmatic Leopold Bloom’s and Stephen Dedalus’s movements through Joyce’s Dublin in contrast to Molly’s spatial fixity.[16] The sapphic narratives of 1928 emphatically re-gender the adventure story: Orlando and Ladies Almanack are overtly picaresque fantasies, the former spanning several countries and four centuries, the latter figuring a lifespan through movements charted in monthly episodes. The Well of Loneliness is more conventionally plotted, yet it “exiles” Stephen Gordon from her English country house to London, then to Paris, to the battlefields of France, to the Canary Islands, and back to Paris with sojourns to Italy and Switzerland, in what one could argue is a marriage plot thwarted by the picaresque.[17] In apparent contrast to these narratives bent on movement, The Hotel and Extraordinary Women opt for a secluded setting--rather like several of the sapphic utopias and dystopias of the early modern period in which women gather in a closed-off space free, if only temporarily, from interference by men. Yet even these still-point novels emphasize dislocation and movement: The Hotel is titled for transience; at its end, Sydney Warren breaks her engagement to Milton and goes off in her “travelling dress,” while Mackenzie’s Rosalba leaves the house that was meant to  “express and become” her personality and nearly all the female characters scatter to the European and American winds (Bowen, The Hotel, 196).[18] The dynamics of movement extend to many of the sapphic works published in the adjacent period; we might recall that Natalie Barney’s emphatically lesbian memoir Aventures de l’esprit (1929) uses the core trope of the picaresque for its title.

Scholarship in the history of sexuality has shown clearly the ways in which the 1928 representations exclude female couples from domestic space; Deborah Cohler rightly notes, for example, that for Stephen Gordon, “homosexuality means that home ceases to be home,” and in the last chapter of The Well of Loneliness Stephen effectively drives Mary out of the house they share as she was once driven out of Morton. The reversed lens that I call the sexuality of history suggests that the absence of home spaces in these novels also makes lesbian characters a means for exploring the implications of an extrication from domestic ties that relocates and thereby reinvents the individual subject. Only in Orlando does the main character end up coupled, and even there the last image is of the “wild goose” who takes off as Shelmerdine’s airplane “falls out of the sky,” hovers, and lands. If decoupling is a tragic outcome for the protagonist of The Well of Loneliness and perhaps also for characters in Extraordinary Women, it is celebratory in Ladies Almanack, whose Dame Musset is intractably polyamorous, and promising in The Hotel, where the protagonist Sydney extricates herself from both her engagement to Milton and her thrall to the manipulative Mrs. Kerr. As one of Bowen’s female characters puts it, “if one does make a home for anybody one is still very much alone” since “the best type of man is no companion.”  Aptly, then, it is not home but hotel that remains the setting for the “weak feelings”—to evoke the scholarship of Tiffany Ball—that also arguably underlie the intimacy between Miss Fitzgerald and Miss Pym, whose clasped hands and “perfect security” provide the novel’s thin analogue to marital closure (The Hotel, 90).[19] Such passages suggest that lesbian modernism is questioning or outright rejecting not only the possibility of home as a physical space but the desirability of the kinds of intimacy with which home is conventionally tied.

The cultural work of these novels questions the “domestic” in a second sense as well, for in all five of the 1928 texts, lesbian figures routinely move across national boundaries. This border-crossing intensifies a trend in some early modern picaresques, and it also reminds us that from the sixteenth century the sapphic was persistently figured in terms of the foreign. It is in Constantinople that the eponymous Orlando’s famous sex-change occurs and on the high seas that she comes to terms with it.[20] The Paris of Ladies Almanack is filled with American and British expatriates as well as French natives. Canadian, American, Welsh, French, and Spanish as well as English characters figure in The Well of Loneliness; Bowen’s hotel is set on the Italian Riviera but heavily Anglophone; and Extraordinary Women’s island Sirene, a stand-in for Capri, becomes the wartime refuge for Swiss, Italian, French, Russian, and Greek women. The reviewer who described Mackenzie’s characters as “sophisticated young devotees of Sappho who wander back and forth between their headquarters . . . and various European capitals” could be speaking of more than this one work, for the world of 1928 lesbian narrative is a world of international mobility. In settings where almost no one is at home in either sense, lesbian mobility becomes, I suggest, a vehicle for figuring not only postwar restlessness, or flight from sexually conservative spaces, but a kind of “league of nations” international allegiance within and across the battle lines of the First World War.[21] Most of the novels, though written by English and American authors, are set in neither Britain nor America but on the European continent. Several of them encompass wartime settings that intensifying the sense both of Europe’s intradependencies and of its precarities. One might speculate, then, that in modernism the lesbian stands in for challenges to the mythology of the stable (and heteronormative) nation-state. To the extent that a character like Mackenzie’s Rosalba is pathologized, it may be similarly significant that her mother “had married first a Frenchman, then an Austrian, then the Italian painter Donsante, by whom she was the mother of Rosalba, then a Spaniard” and now “a handsome Sicilian” (Mackenzie, Extraordinary Women, 37).  Here internationality is decidedly instability, and it is not insignificant that insofar as erotic unions occur at all in these novels, they are likely to occur within rather than across national identities.

The elite class politics of “sapphic modernism” that underwrite the international mobility of its characters have of course been much discussed.[22] Not only do these novels represent lesbians in class terms; they represent class in lesbian terms: lesbian becomes a kind of figure for privilege in much the way that Judith Butler sees sexuality and race as cross-constitutive in Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). Bertha Harris famously quipped that in 1920s Paris, “to be upper class was at its finest to be [lesbian]” and “to be lesbian was at its finest also to be upper class.”[23] But in insisting on this intersection of transgressive sexuality with people of privilege—whether to condemn, to celebrate, or simply to associate the two spheres—these 1928 novels are displacing sexual transgression onto a leisure class in ways that arguably preserve heteronormativity for a working bourgeoisie.[24]

Given these class dynamics, it is no surprise that the sapphic modernity represented in the 1928 works is also dependent, and usually silently dependent, on white privilege.  But this aspect of modernism, with its extension into an ambivalent primitivism, has eighteenth-century antecedents recognizable, for example, in the associations of sexuality with the South Seas.  And Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s wildly popular Paul et Virginie (1788) builds its island utopia from a kind of cross-class sapphic motherhood that is undermined by the holding of slaves. The 1928 writings arguably configure modernity itself in terms of whiteness. The partial exception, Larsen’s 1929 Passing, may prove the rule: its most homoerotic scene of desire between Claire and Irene is also a scene of upperclass beauty and luxury, and Larsen’s Quicksand, another 1928 novel whose heroine Helga Crane is both American and Danish, would seem to reinforce the white elitism of postwar Europe.

In associating sexuality with privileged, mobile, international communities, the lesbian narratives of 1928 narrow the rough-and-tumble class inclusiveness and the dramatic cross-class affiliations that figure prominently in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century representations of the sapphic. By the late eighteenth century, though, that narrowing had already begun, and in ways that served both dystopic and utopian purposes. On the negative side, even before the French Revolution aristocratic overreaching and the dangers of female rule came to be figured through the sapphic, most vividly in the satires against Marie Antoinette and her circle but more widely against upperclass figures in general. On the other hand, the sapphic also shaped an alternative dynamics of family as kin, whether in the erotic utopia of Parisian “Anandrynes” figured in Pidansat de Mairobert’s Confession d’une jeune fille (1784) or in elegaic tributes to couples like Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, the famous “Ladies of Llangollen.”  Both periods also feature literary representations à clef in which well-known (and again, usually elite) historical figures get represented—and sometimes skewered—in ways that are legible to a wide readership. In the 1928 novels, Radclyffe Hall’s Valerie Seymour and Djuna Barnes’s Dame Musset are both clear stand-ins for Natalie Barney; Woolf’s Orlando is an avowed portrait of Vita Sackville-West; and both Ladies Almanack and Extraordinary Women are filled with barely veiled historical characters. It is also not accidental, then, that the lesbian culture of 1928 often harks back to figures like the Ladies of Llangollen, whom I have elsewhere described as performing themselves in an elitist “class act.”,  In a similar vein,  Terry Castle identifies a sapphic “Marie Antoinette obsession” that begins around 1918 and flourishes in the 1920s and 1930s.[25] 

Walter Benjamin famously and controversially described the lesbian, with reference to Baudelaire, as “the heroine of la modernité.”[26]  But the connections between postwar and eighteenth-century representations suggest that the sapphic has deeper and arguably more troubling ties to modernity than forging a new construction of the lesbian as the quintessential “modern woman”:  the cultural work wrought by lesbian representations may not only be figuring new social opportunities, especially for women, but keeping certain forms of power and privilege in place. I have suggested in The Sexuality of History that the sapphic has always been modern insofar as it has been epistemically transgressive and thus able to figure transgression itself. It has resisted containment through tropes of mobility and border-crossing; it has figured political upheavals that have little to do with sexuality as such.  The sapphic figures a modernity that even in 1928 lay, and arguably still lies, beyond reach, a modernity in which the logic of “woman + woman” would be instantiated not only in the social imaginary but in the social itself.

Without doubt, the 1928 novels moved the project of sapphic modernity forward dramatically, putting female same-sex desire into intensive textual circulation in ways that changed the cultural conversation and offered a critical bridge between the first and second waves of lesbian movement.  But if one project of modernity is to make the world safe for the sapphic, as it were, that project is complicated by disturbing conjunctions of sexuality, race, and class in both the eighteenth century and the 1920s. As we near the centennial of what I have called “sapphic modernity” we might wisely look to the bold and innovative work of queer feminists of color to transform both the history of sexuality and the sexuality of history.


[1]  I take “lesbian literature” here in its broadest possible sense, as literature that inscribes female homoeroticism in characters, relationships, themes, or tropes. I am not, therefore, restricting the term to literature either by lesbians or for lesbians (however defined). Blanche Wiesen Cook famously made the “banner year” claim in “’Women Alone Stir My Imagination’: Lesbianism and the Cultural Tradition,” Signs 4, no. 4 (1979): 718-39, 718.

    Some scholars date The Hotel to 1927, but I have been unable to locate such an imprint in any library or library catalogue including WorldCat; all date the earliest editions to 1928. 1928 also saw the publication of what may be the first lesbian guidebook, Ruth Margarete Roellig’s Berlins lesbiche Frauen, a reminder that lesbian culture in this period is heavily urban and that certain national literatures seem to have been most active in producing sapphic texts. Lillan Faderman has discovered as well an American novel of 1928, Wanda Fraiken Neff’s We Sing Diana; see Faderman, “Love Between Women in 1928: Why Progressivism Is Not Always Progress,” Lodestar Quarterly 13 (2005),

[2]  Extending the chronology by a few years on either side gives us, at the very least, Rosamund Lehmann’s Dusty Answer and Grete von Urbanitsky’s Der Wilde Garten (both 1927); Natalie Clifford Barney’s Aventures de l’esprit and Nella Larsen’s Passing (both 1929); Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September (1929) and Friends and Relations (1931); Anna Weirauch’s Skorpion trilogy (1919-1931); at least four novels published in 1930: Christa Winsloe’s Gestern und Heute, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus’s, l’Ange et les Pervers, Olive Moore’s Spleen, and Wyndham Lewis’s The Apes of God; Dorothy Richardson’s Dawn’s Left Hand (1931), among other volumes in her Pilgrimage series; and Colette’s Le Pur et l’impur (1932), among other works by Colette. We might extend a bit farther to include Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (1934) and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and Colette’s Le Pur et l’impur (1932), among other works by Colette. We might extend a bit farther to include Ivy Compton-Burnett’s More Women Than Men (1933), M. J. Farrell’s Devoted Ladies (1934), Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (1934) and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood (1936), while also recognizing that the arc of lesbian representation in European and American literature begins to wane by the mid-30s.

[3]  The terms “sapphic modernism” and “lesbian modernism”—and, in a shift of emphasis by Laura Doan and Jean Garrity, “sapphic modernity”—have been used by numerous scholars, though none of these appellations is without controversy. For some sense of the genealogy of these terms, see the introduction to Doan and Garrity’s Sapphic Modernities: Sexuality, Women, and National Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). My own use of “lesbian modernity” takes the conversation in a slightly different direction, as will be evident below. I sidestep here the myriad definitions of “sapphic” and “lesbian” as well as their related “isms” in favor of a large umbrella encompassing anything coded as erotically-inflected intimacies, propensities, or desires for or between women.

[4] Scholars who have engaged these questions during the past decade include Laura Doan and Jane Garrity, Elizabeth English, Kathryn Kent, Suzanne Raitt, Jasmine Rault, Sasha Nair, Lisa Walker, Jean Walton, Joanne Winning, Deborah Cohler, and Jodie Medd.

[5]  Jodie Medd, Lesbian Scandal and the Culture of Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 2, 7.

[6] As signs of the fruitlessness of arguing for “positive” or “negative” readings of the 1928 texts, I would note the vastly different responses to a novel like Extraordinary Women (a savage indictment of lesbianism to many readers and critics, but to Terry Castle [in The Literature of Lesbianism:  A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall [New York:  Columbia University Press, 2003], 822] an “affectionately” satirical “comic novel of sapphic shenanigans”) or for that matter Ladies Almanack, which I consider a celebratory romp and Lillian Faderman considers a rendering of lesbianism as “abnormal” and “masculine,” in “Love Between Women in 1928,” Lodestar Quarterly 13 (2005).

[7] The five 1928 works that I mention at the outset display an impressive range of authorial genders and sexualities. My choice to explore the common tropes and practices among these novels does not deny the differences that could be attributed to biographical investments.

[8] Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 10.

[9]  Harvie Ferguson, Modernity and Subjectivity: Body, Soul, Spirit (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 1-2, 4.

[10]  Virginia Woolf, “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown,” in The Captain’s Death Bed and Other Essays (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanivich, 1950), 96.

[11]  Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928, rpt. Hertfordshire, UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2005), 12; Elizabeth Bowen, The Hotel (1928, rpt. University of Chicago Press, 2012); Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. Michael H. Whitworth (1928, rpt. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Djuna Barnes, Ladies Almanack (1928, rpt. New York: New York University Press, 1992), 22.

[12]  Review in The New Statesman, August 1928, emphasis mine; quoted in Florence Tamagne, History of Homosexuality in Europe (New York:  Algora, 2006), I, 322–23. 

[13] Kathryn R. Kent, Making Girls Into Women: American Women’s Writing and the Rise of Lesbian Identity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 132.

[14] Valerie Traub, “The Present Future of Lesbian Historiography,” in A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies, ed. George E. Haggerty and Molly McGarry (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 126.

[15] Joseph Swetnam, The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (1615, rpt. London: B. Deacon, 1707), 41.

[16]  Two African-American novels, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), while not quite falling within the spectrum of the sapphic, also depart from the male-centered conventions of white modernist picaresque. On the other hand, Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1928), picaresque in spite of its title, embodies a similar emphasis on male mobility though not on gentle class domesticity.

[17]  Significantly, the word “exile” appears at least a dozen times in The Well of Loneliness.

[18] Compton Mackenzie, Extraordinary Women:Themes and Variations (London: Martin Secker, 1928), 390.

[19]  See Tiffany Ball, “Weak Feelings: Femininity, Affect, and Sexuality in Modern Fiction and Theory,” PhD diss. University of Michigan, 2016. On the marriage-like ending of The Hotel, see Patricia Juliana Smith, Lesbian Panic: Homoeroticism in Modern British Women’s Fiction (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 75-78. Reading that ending in light of Ball’s theory, however, suggests a more attenuated marital closure than the one Smith implies.

[20]  National boundaries are sometimes crossed in what I’ve called the “sapphic picaresques” of the long eighteenth century, most notably in the anonymous Travels and Adventures of Mademoiselle de Richelieu (1744), but border-crossing is not an inevitable feature of the earlier works.

[21] Cleveland Chase, “Novels from the British Isles,” in the Bookman, February 1929, 707-08, 708.

[22] In choosing words like “elite” and “upper-class” I am departing from those who see in these representations a specifically middle-class ideology. “Educated class” or “leisure class” are arguably better terms to describe most of the women who people these texts, but certainly they comprise an elite.

[23]  Bertha Harris, “The More Profound Nationality of Their Lesbianism,” in Amazon Expedition, ed. Phyllis Birkby et al. (New York: Times Change Press, 1973), 79.

[24] Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, also published in 1928 and so resoundingly condemned by W. E. B. Du Bois for its portrait of undomesticated sexuality, might also be understood as enacting a similar transgressive reclamation in terms of the Black working class.

[25] Elsewhere I have argued for a “compensatory conservatism” of politics and class in sapphic figures such as Butler and Ponsonby and Anne Lister; I wonder whether a conservatism of class is in part the offset of modernist sexual transgressivity. See Lanser, “Befriending the Body: Female Intimacies as Class Acts,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 32 (1998-99): 179-98. On modernist reinscriptions of Butler and Ponsonby, see Fiona Brideoake’s The Ladies of Llangollen, forthcoming in 2016 from Bucknell University Press. Terry Castle’s “Marie Antoinette Obsession” first appeared in Representations 38 (1992): 1-38.

[26] Walter Benjamin, “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 4, trans. Edmund Jephcott, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 56.