University of Derby
The lesbian historical novel is a genre that has been consistently neglected. Reasons of censorship and lack of credibility, during an increasingly hostile Victorian era, forced lesbians into exile, denying them their subjectivity and distancing them from any notion of same sex desire. Inevitably, lives have been lost or forgotten as a consequence. Looking at three of Sarah Waters novels, Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and The Fingersmith, this article intends to consider the existence of the marginalized working class lesbian. It hopes to show how a contemporary woman writer successfully exploits the unreliability of history in order to replicate a series of romantic fantasies and in so doing, it will argue that Waters’ fiction makes it possible to envisage lesbian desire beyond the limitations of heterosexual paradigms. Feminist and queer theory engagement with the texts will highlight the way Waters repossesses the desiring lesbian body, examining a series of erotic lesbian portrayals.
Keywords: lesbian, historical novel, censorship, forgotten lives, working class, desiring bodies, feminism, queer theory, erotic.