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The Monstrous Lesbian: Literature and Art c. 1900-1930

Explores the image of “The Lesbian” – ‎monstrous, tragic and exoticised, in English literature of the 1910s and 20s.

In a lively lecture puncutated with illustrations and quotations, tonight’s speaker explores the image of “The Lesbian” – ‎monstrous, tragic and exoticised, in English literature of the 1910s and 20s.‎ The idea of her monstrosity arose from the culture of the time: the fin-de-siècle fascination with “deadly and dangerous females”as well as the appearance of images of aesthetic and decadent men. The numerous facets of the 'monstrous lesbian' notions included the idea that a heterosexual woman could be ensnared by one of these dangerous creatures; there was the idea that homosexuality could be 'caught' like a disease from them. This sort of lesbian represented a threat to the natural order of society, for she would steal away men's wives and daughters, and defied taming. In stories and illustrations she is likened to a vampire, snake, beast, or dragon. Paradoxically, she could be as alluring as she was repulsive. Tonight, we see just how.

Lindsay River returns to Treadwell's lecture series by popular demand, where she is a much-loved doyenne and inspiration. River's MA dissertation (London Metropolitan) examined early 20th-century constructions of lesbianism, and she now works professionally on ageism, queer rights and queer pagan perspectives. A retired astrologer, she wrote (with Sally Gillespie) The Knot of Time: Astrology and Female Experience (1987). This talk is given as part of Lesbian and Gay History Month.


Lindsey River | talks


Date and Time:

11 February 2009 at 7:15 pm


2 hours



Treadwell's Books
33 Store Street
020 7419 8507

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