The Politics of Love

Queer Heterosexuality in Nineteenth-Century French Literature

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What would love be if heterosexual couples were no longer assigned gender and sexual norms?

Maxime Foerster examines the “heterosexual trouble” between men and women in nineteenth-century French Romantic and Decadent literature. Key works by authors ranging from George Sand to Charles Baudelaire persistently demonstrate that heterosexuality did not work: these authors, and many others, investigated the struggle that men and women alike waged against patriarchal norms. Whereas Romantic fiction dedicated itself to the reinvention of love, Decadence promoted sexual and gender deviance.

In expertly evaluating the discord afflicting fictional heterosexual couples, male and female dandies, and doctors and their female patients, Foerster shows the crucial role that literature played in the fashioning of alternative identities. A concluding look at Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu traces the legacy of heterosexual trouble in the twentieth century.

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