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Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Emma Donoghue examines how desire between women in English literature has been portrayed, from schoolgirls and vampires to runaway wives, from cross-dressing knights to contemporary murder stories. She looks at the work of those writers who have addressed the "unspeakable subject," examining whether same-sex desire is freakish or omnipresent, holy or evil, as she excavates ...more
Paperback, 273 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Cleis Press (first published 2010)
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Just A. Bean
Should be subtitled Two Thousand Years of Femslash. That said, I appreciate that the book doesn't take the tone of OMG! They're so sleeping together! as retroactive lesbian lit theory. The author surveys close bonds and attractions between women, especially ones with sexual connotations (such as cross dressing or a woman rivalling a man for another woman's heart), but doesn't presume that the relationship is a sexual one, only the forms that are repeated and the ways they can be read (except in ...more
I was hesitant about reading this book because my knowledge of English and French literary traditions is minimal (practically nonexistent to be honest, you say Restoration comedy and my brain spins about wildly before pulling up one or two vague facts) and this book focuses on works which most the most part, I've never heard of, but it was fantastic. Smart, clear, engaging, striking the right degree of detail, funny etc - everything that survey literature should be.
It's a Donoghue book, so saying that it's well-written is simply redundant. Where she lost me a bit, though, was in the examples that she chose. I found the "Monsters" chapter fairly weak, largely due to the exclusion of works with supernatural elements, which I thought would have given a much broader scope for her discussion. I was also somewhat baffled by the timelines and lack of historical reference points; reading fads change because external events influence them. So, all in all, not the b ...more
Jenny McPhee
Our Generalized Amnesia
With Lillian Hellman’s 1934 hit play The Children’s Hour opening (Feb 9) in London’s West End, the cyberpress is atwitter about catching some “on-stage Lesbian love” between the play’s two stars Kiera Knightly and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men’s Peggy). Interviewed in The Sunday Times, Moss says her character -- Martha Dobie, a New England schoolteacher accused of an affair with the headmistress (Kiera Knightly) -- isn’t exactly a lesbian and “the play isn’t about lesbianism eit
Originally, I was going to give this book 5 stars. A few reviewers have said it's "too academic", but I am baffled by that. This is an incredibly easy to read and understand book. It's genuinely amazing--you don't have to have read any of the works that Donoghue references. However, if you have read any of the books she references, it's pretty interesting. I've read a number of the books cited, but I missed out on a lot of what Donoghue points out. She makes me want to reread some of these books ...more
Bill Brydon
Thorough research and refreshing candor p. 14 "...time to let readers of all stripes hear about and enjoy the whole range of literature about desire between women, whether romantic or smutty, thrilling or funny, and with blood-fanged fiends included too."

"The vampire, too, has often been used as an allegory for the Other, especially a member of a distrusted, invisible minority such as Jews. Queers fit the vampire even better: a hidden identity revealed only by subtle signs, a nocturnal subcultur
To be fair, this book should probably get four stars. It was rich in researched details and not too difficult for the lay reader. But 4 and 5 stars are, for me, reserved for books I am likely to want to read again. This was too academic for a second read... Unless I go back for my PhD in lesbian literature someday.

Some reviewers have said that it gave them ideas for what books to read next. For me, I'm content to leave the heavy lifting for Donaghue. She read them so I don't have to! If you are
Rachael Eyre
Absolutely loved this. I lapped it up over the course of the bank holiday, following various key threads in lesbian identified literature. Although it was fun running into old friends (the Sarah Waters canon, Fried Green Tomatoes), it also introduced fascinating books I can't wait to read. Proof that Emma Donoghue is a woman of many talents!
Bernadette Robinson
I read a large paperback version of this that stated it was 288 pages or so long, but the last quarter of the book is full of the research info that the book has been based on.

This book has been well researched in my opinion and is one that I dipped in and out of whilst reading fiction. Hats off to Emma Donoghue, she has compiled a comprehensive list of books that if you're interested in the LGBT genre or are studying this for English Literature will be very useful.

The book is broken up into s
E. K.
Really interesting, this is a topic I didn't think had been much discussed in Western literature until the 20th century, but she really proved that wrong. My only gripe was that it seemed more like a personal reading list than anything else. I was disappointed that she didn't spend some time exploring different perspectives on these books and what other critics and historians thought of them. In the last chapter she mentioned that some critics think that stories of desire between women are reall ...more
Mary Kathryn
From ex-academic and novelist wunderkind Emma Donoghue comes this top-notch and thorough account of lesbianism in Western literature. Female bridegrooms, butches, femmes, rivals, monsters, vampires, coming-out stories, best "friends" - all the various guises lesbian love has taken are well researched here. She's particularly strong on the theme of detection, whether the detective is a lesbian sleuth or a plain old dyke who is the last to know her kind. Readers are in for delightful surprises, as ...more
Wendy Lu
difficult to get through, but god, i'm into this book
Donoghue takes us on a fascinating trip through the themes that have run in literature about women loving women. The way she didn't dither about the "lesbian" label and the "were-they-weren't-they" of retroactively applying contemporary identity politics, but rather just focused on presenting close female couplings (and, of course, how others reacted) was refreshing. This is the first nonfiction book in a while that I'll definitely purchase rather than simply borrowing from my library.
Lisa Spangenberg
A fascinating categorized survey about the depiction of women loving women in literature, largely Western European from the Middle Ages through the Victorian.

The span necessitates brevity, but Donoghue is thorough and presents a number of perceptive and intriguing observations. There's food for thought hereand a great deal more discussion and analyses.
Donoghue is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the relationships of women in great literature. I believe this book took ten years to write and it stands as a testimony to the strong role of women in books from earliest times.
I still think of this book and try to sum up the way emma donoghue was able to talk about the possibilities of intimacy between women and how that has morphed throughout time.
A fascinating tour of literature written about desire between women, from the medieval romance to the present day.
Caitlin Jellybean
I really liked this- it was a very fast read for nonfiction, and Emma Donoghue's voice is lively, friendly, and funny.
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Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of ...more
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