Representation, Expression and Censorship: Same-sex Desire in ‘Orlando’ and ‘The Well of Loneliness’

By 1928 – the year The Well of Loneliness[1] and Orlando[2] were published –there was an increasing social awareness of female same-sex desire in Britain.[3] Whilst The Well engages in religious and contemporaneous sexological discourse in order to legitimise and justify ‘sexual inversion’; Orlando adopts metaphorical language and narrative strategies to deconstruct and expose conventional heterosexuality, exploiting the possibility for same-sex desire.[4]

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Degrading the Feminine: Reading Misogyny in E. E. Cummings & T. S Eliot

There is a degraded and misogynistic representation of the feminine in E. E. Cummings [1] poetry: a victimised and openly disdained object Cummings invites us to judge.

E. E. Cummings: 1894 - 1962
E. E. Cummings: 1894 – 1962

Criticism of The Waste Land [2], on the other hand, has come to a general conclusion that it is, in short, ‘about a sexual failure which signifies a modern spiritual failure’ [3]. And while, here too, women are victims of a failed Western civilisation, Eliot’s portrayal of the degradation of both sexes depicts a shared failure of human relationships in Western societies. There are many characters – male and female – presented through various voices, but it is the expression of a single protagonist, ‘various facets of whose character are represented by the different men and women in the poem.’ [4] 

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A Queer Reading of Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’

Katherine Mansfield, 1916
Katherine Mansfield, 1916

‘But in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place-that shower of little sparks coming from it. It was almost unbearable. She hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanning it higher, and yet she breathed deeply, deeply. She hardly dared to look into the cold mirror-but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something … divine to happen … that she knew must happen … infallibly.’ Katherine Mansfield, Bliss (1918)

Several critics have identified Bertha’s intense feeling of bliss as a symbol of her awakened desire for Harry, and/or Pearl. Although it is not explicitly evident, at first, exactly what is fuelling this ‘shower of sparks’ in her bosom the extensive use of the ‘fire’ and heat metaphors can be described as being synonymous with sexual passion and desire. It begins with the description of her bliss as ‘though you’d suddenly swallowed a piece of that bright afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom… little shower of sparks’, and continues ‘… passionately, passionately… the fire in her bosom.’

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Eighteenth Century Masquerade

Georgian Masquerade
Georgian Masquerade

‘I love a masquerade […] because a female can never enjoy the same liberty any where else’; Exploring the Relationship between Gender and Disguise in Eighteenth-century fiction  

Public masquerades were a popular, and controversial, form of urban entertainment in England during most of the eighteenth century. Some of the controversy, and subsequent criticism, that surrounded the culture of the masquerades relate to the belief that they would encourage female sexual freedom, and possibly even female emancipation.[1]

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