Hushed Bodies, Screaming Narratives: The Construction of Trans-Identity in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature


Michel Foucault described 19th-century France as a period of intense sexual scrutiny as well as a watershed moment that gave birth to the formal recognition, evolution, and study of “deviant” sexual identities. While this may be true, modern French studies still idle in examining the epistemological effect of this operative change in French ideology, society, and more specifically literature. If studies into 19th- and 20th-century French gay and lesbian literatures and ideologies have begun to flourish in some academic francophone circles, trans-literature has been overlooked. Moreover, this critical oversight inadvertently highlights the all too often modern omission of the “T” in the LGBT community. This article will place the works of five French authors spanning the 19th and 20th centuries in communication with contemporary queer theory in an attempt to examine the nascent evolution of what today might be considered transgender identity, as well as analyse the meaning attached to queer identities during this period in French and francophone literatures.

Key words: transgender, queer theory, 19th century, 20th century, France, narrative.

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C.J. Gomolka
University of Maryland, College Park 
C.J. Gomolka is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has published on George Sand and Herculine Barbin and is currently working on an encyclopedic publication on “19th-century gay male French literature.” His research focus is 19th- and 20th-century gay male French literature.