Paean to Gaiety
- The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture by Terry Castle
Columbia, 322 pp, £20.00, January 1994, ISBN 0 231 07652 5
In this camp and dashing and deliberately lightweight study of a certain strand of ‘sexual ontology’ Terry Castle pursues the lesbian-as-ghost from Defoe’s wistful nearly-real Mrs Veal onwards. She had, she explains, been planning and researching a much heavier straight book about hauntings – on ‘the waning of belief in apparitions in Western culture after the Enlightenment’ – but in the end decided to come out of the closet and produce this labour of love: ‘I felt scandalously energised.’
Vol. 16 No. 20 · 20 October 1994
I would like to correct a misleading sentence in Lorna Sage’s review of my book The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (LRB, 22 September). She writes: ‘Castle takes issue … with queer theorists like Eve Sedgwick, “lesbians who enjoy writing about male-male eros”, but who seem captive to the “privilege of unknowing” when it comes to libido.’ Nowhere in my book do I suggest (as this sentence does) that Professor Sedgwick is a lesbian. What I was taking issue with in the passage Sage has misread were ‘queer theorists’ (of whom Sedgwick is one) who are more comfortable with lesbian writers, such as Willa Cather and Mary Renault, ‘who enjoy writing about male-male eros’, than with lesbian writers who enjoy writing about female-female eros.
Stanford University, California