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Yes You, Sweetheart

Terry Castle: A Garland for Colette, 16 March 2000

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette 
by Judith Thurman.
Bloomsbury, 596 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 7475 4309 7
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... Who more omnivorous – not to mention lewd – than Colette, the frizzle-headed Cat Woman of 20th-century French writing? Shocking still the sheer salaciousness of the prose, even in the works of her apprenticeship, written in the days when ladies wore bustles and carried parasols. Take the following scene from the autobiographical Claudine à Paris (1901), in which the precocious yet virginal 17-year-old heroine, recently arrived in the capital with her dreamy widower father, is flirting with her ‘uncle’ Renaud, a handsome older friend of the family by whom (though she hasn’t realised it yet) she desperately wants to be fucked ...

Adieu, madame

Terry Castle: Sarah Bernhardt, 4 November 2010

Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, October 2010, 978 0 300 14127 6
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... Sarah Bernhardt’s strangest gift – or so it seems a hundred years after the fact – was her ability to make the most improbable people go cuckoo over her. An otherwise mopey young D.H. Lawrence, for example. In 1908, having seen her perform one of her signature roles – Marguerite, the doomed courtesan in La Dame aux camélias – Lawrence sounds like a decadent schoolgirl on heat: ‘Oh, to see her, and to hear her, a wild creature, a gazelle with a beautiful panther’s fascination and fury, sobbing and sighing like a deer sobs, wounded to death, and all the time with the sheen of silk, the glitter of diamonds … She represents the primeval passions of woman, and she is fascinating to an extraordinary degree ...

Tickle and Flutter

Terry Castle: Maude Hutchins’s Revenge, 3 July 2008

... Leaf through old New York Times reviews of the novels of Maude Hutchins – from the 1950s and early 1960s especially, when her reputation was at its height – and one is instantly struck by it: the old-maid-like embarrassment she aroused in her critics. Not one of them could get through an essay about her, it seems, without a biddyish dilation on the carnality of her themes ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... First, a fiery allegory – the reviewer’s house is burning down! After tossing the cats out of the window, she has time only to save one object before fleeing: either a compact disc reissue of Sarah Bernhardt declaiming from Phèdre or an old sepia-tinted postcard of Eleonora Duse in D’Annunzio’s La Città morta. Quick! Which to choose? The Bernhardt has always been a source of deep hilarity: given the primitive acoustic equipment (the original recording was made in 1903), the fabled French actress sounds like Minnie Mouse on speed ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe, 16 August 2007

... Off to a great start at lunch in Phoenix airport: Terrorist Threat Level Orange for ‘high’ as usual, women’s restrooms jammed, and then the waiter in Aunt Chilada’s Cantina – garish faux-Mexican with a jalapeño pepper theme – calls me ‘sir’ when he takes our order. Fume for a second, then descend into bath of elemental shame. Why does this always happen to me? Do I really look like a guy? No doubt, after great persecution, I will suffer the miserable and lonely death of the sexual pervert ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... Scene: Chinese restaurant, Cambridge, Massachusetts, early 1980s, the start of a new academic year. Seated at a large table are seven women in their twenties to forties, all writers and literature scholars, most of whom are just beginning year-long fellowships at the Bunting Institute – the feminist think tank (now known as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) at Harvard University ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front, 4 April 2002

... looked her up one day in the London telephone book. (After my parents’ divorce I’d let all the Castle relatives go to hell.) Bridget, it turned out, had been in the Army for 11 years – in Germany and Belfast – and was now running the transport department for a London borough. She is slangy and brusque and ultra-competent – knows all about plumbing ...

Husbands and Wives

Terry Castle: Claude & Marcel, Gertrude & Alice, 13 December 2007

Don’t Kiss Me: The Art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore 
edited by Louise Downie.
Tate Gallery, 240 pp., £25, June 2006, 1 59711 025 6
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Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice 
by Janet Malcolm.
Yale, 229 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 300 12551 1
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... First, a somewhat spittle-laden squawk: how one positively slavers for a good biography of the astonishing French artist known as Claude Cahun (1894-1954). Mention her in conversation and you are likely to draw a puzzled ‘Claude who?’ even from otherwise predatory culture vultures. In my own case – it’s true – certain vile French diphthongs may be part of the problem: the phonetic distinctions between Cahun, Caen, Caïn, Cannes, Cohn, canne, cane, cagne, camp, cône and con remain, sadly, a perpetual trial ...

Paean to Gaiety

Lorna Sage, 22 September 1994

The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 322 pp., £20, January 1994, 0 231 07652 5
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... 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 ...

One Night in Maidenhead

Jean McNicol, 30 October 1997

Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... life. Early in her suggestive and elegantly written study of Noël Coward and Radclyffe Hall, Terry Castle admits that Hall’s ‘style is for the most part the antithesis of Coward’s – painfully discursive, polemical, almost entirely devoid of gaiety, archness or ambiguity’. Castle attempts to ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... I’ve been wearing my usual old striped T-shirt to sleep in, but it feels pretty fucking useless. Terry Castle San Francisco India is no stranger to terrorism. But the terrorism that India has had to face for some decades can by no means be connected only to Islam; and in almost every case the ruling government has played a part in causing and even ...

Vibrating to the Chord of Queer

Elaine Showalter: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 6 March 2003

Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity 
by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Duke, 216 pp., £14.95, March 2003, 0 8223 3015 6
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Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory 
edited by Stephen Barber and David Clark.
Routledge, 285 pp., £55, September 2002, 0 415 92818 4
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... indeed women seemed to drop quickly out of the argument. Some lesbian literary critics, including Terry Castle, have tried to reverse the paradigm to show men positioned between women; others have criticised Sedgwick’s obsession with gay men. But more to the point, in Between Men Sedgwick ignores from the start the devastation and humiliation of the ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... Morrison, Craig Raine, James Fenton, Alan Jenkins, Clive Wilmer), the academics (Nicholas Jenkins, Terry Castle, Colin McGinn, Deborah Cameron, Deborah Bowman, William Pritchard, Eric Homberger, Michael O’Neill, Rachel Buxton) and the memoirists (Karl Miller, Anthony Thwaite, Robert Conquest), though several of them can lay claim to more than one of ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder, 8 October 1992

Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... and an alternative post-1917 revolutionary England in another play, Balmoral. Here the royal castle has been transmuted into a spartan state-run writers’ retreat housing Warwick Deeping, Hugh Walpole, Godfrey Within and an obscure erotic poetess called Enid Blyton. Balmoral, which flopped on the stage, is a sort of extended boarding-school ragging. We ...


Terry Eagleton, 6 January 1994

Safe in the Kitchen 
by Aisling Foster.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 241 13426 9
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... accomplished first novel must also reckon the political cost. Rita Fitzgerald, scion of a Castle Catholic Dublin family in the years of the Irish war of independence, marries Frank O’Fiaich, Eamon de Valera’s right-hand man, and becomes embroiled in a plot to finance the Irish revolution with the Romanov crown jewels. (Like many a fabular event in ...

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