The Straight and the Bent

Elaine Showalter

  • Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault by Jonathan Dollimore
    Oxford, 388 pp, £35.00, August 1991, ISBN 0 19 811225 4
  • Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories by Diana Fuss
    Routledge, 432 pp, £40.00, March 1992, ISBN 0 415 90236 3

In 1895, at a café in Algiers, Oscar Wilde procured a young Arab musician for André Gide, and thereby launched the French writer into a new life. It probably wasn’t Gide’s first homosexual experience, but it was the one he credited in his journals with the initiation into his real sexual nature, the moment, he recalled, in which he began ‘to discover myself – and in myself the tables of a new law’. He felt that he had thrown off the suffocating constraints of a ‘worn-out ethical creed’, and joyfully embraced his true and liberated desire. In later books like Corydon (1924) and If I die (1926), he defended homosexuality as a mark of creative genius, a sexual nonconformity with affinities to other kinds of passionate rebellion.

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