A novel in desperate need of further exploration and consideration both by myself and others. Written by Diana Frederics (a pseudonym, but that’s a wA novel in desperate need of further exploration and consideration both by myself and others. Written by Diana Frederics (a pseudonym, but that’s a whole separate, utterly fascinating story in and of itself)!) and published in 1939 by the Citadel Press, just a glance through the chapter names listed in the table of contents announces its disarmingly forthright approach towards its so-called “strange” content: “Am I A Lesbian?,” “‘I Am A Lesbian!’,” “Leslie and I Become Lovers,” etc. Throughout The Well of Loneliness Radclyffe Hall embroiders her representation of lesbian desires and lives with–and ultimately deadening—metaphors and other explicit literary devices; Diana resolutely opts for the opposite tack. Consider:
“With this acknowledgment of my homosexuality I discovered myself; now I had something to go on. It was like being born all over again, and the relief I felt astonished me. I had, so to speak, nothing left to be worried about. My fears were all confirmed… I was determined to respect myself for what I was, lesbianism be damned.”
Well yes, not exactly a final pronouncement that jibes easily within our contemporary rhetoric of relentless pro-queer self affirmation, but I will attest that after reading so many books from this period –and let’s be frank, from all eras—where this same realization is accompanied by utter despair followed by a quick, inevitably sad downward spiral, the clear-eyed, no-nonsense attitude displayed by Diana’s eponymous subject had nothing less than a lightening effect on me.
With a rather spare, declarative style, it doesn’t take that long for Diana to pragmatically grasp evaluate the facts of her life and then set forth to make the best of things. And while there are inevitable complications along the way, she does manage to do pretty darn well for herself, and the fact that the concluding chapter of the novel is titled “Fulfillment” says quite lot. If this perspective came as a bit of a happy shock for me in 2014, I can only imagine its effect on a similarly sympathetic reader in 1939.
The few scholarly considerations I’ve been able to find regarding Diana, most particularly Julie Abraham’s introduction to a 1995 reprinting by the NYU Press, take a surprisingly critical stance toward the novel, tending to focus on what the novel is not as opposed to the many things it is. But for my part, Diana was surely one of the great revelations of my reading year.
One might presume that at this point this volume would be quite dated, and while of course it doesn't cover developments in film theory over the lastOne might presume that at this point this volume would be quite dated, and while of course it doesn't cover developments in film theory over the last several decades, I have encountered few other sources that manages to be clear and elucidating while also being gracefully written in and of itself. A reference book I find myself turning to often. ...more