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The Pragmatics of Misfit Sexualities, from Colette to Hervé Guibert


The Pragmatics of Misfit Sexualities, from Colette to Hervé Guibert

Imagine trying to tell someone something about yourself and your desires for which there are no words. What if the mere attempt at expression was bound to misfire, to efface the truth of that ineluctable something? 

In Someone, Michael Lucey considers characters from twentieth-century French literary texts whose sexual forms prove difficult to conceptualize or represent. The characters expressing these “misfit” sexualities gravitate towards same-sex encounters. Yet they differ in subtle but crucial ways from mainstream gay or lesbian identities—whether because of a discordance between gender identity and sexuality, practices specific to a certain place and time, or the fleetingness or non-exclusivity of desire. Investigating works by Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, Jean Genet, and others, Lucey probes both the range of same-sex sexual forms in twentieth-century France and the innovative literary language authors have used to explore these evanescent forms.

As a portrait of fragile sexualities that involve awkward and delicate maneuvers and modes of articulation, Someone reveals just how messy the ways in which we experience and perceive sexuality remain, even to ourselves.

344 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Gender and Sexuality

History: History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Psychology: Personality


"For alongside its thought-provoking and finely sociological account of misfit sexualities in and around the literary field of twentieth-century France, Someone is also a finely crafted and aesthetically sensitive work of literary criticism. . . . The result is a book that requires attention, certainly, but rewards that attention so richly that the process of reading it feels like a working together, rather than a working against. I do not often find this in academic books; I do not believe many of us do. A book that creates that feeling is a precious thing indeed. Someone is one of those books."

GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies

"Lucey proves himself adept at the detective work necessary to ascertain how the nonpropositional aspects of language communicate meaning, moving effortlessly among literary texts, letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, and sociological and linguistic theory to carefully reconstruct the contexts of a text’s production and reception... Someone is, above all, a rigorous and instructive study of methods of reading—it offers a wealth of insight to those who would study what nondenotative language can signal about social positionings and sexual worlds."

Journal of Modern History

"Simply spectacular. Lucey proposes a whole new way of problematizing sexual identity and upends in the process many conceptual frameworks that hold sway over contemporary scholarship. His constant, generous attention to the peculiar, the odd, the idiosyncratic that goes hand in hand with the realities of sexual desire makes his work uniquely humane, ethical even. Someone is an outstanding accomplishment."

David Caron, author of The Nearness of Others: Searching for Tact and Contact in the Age of HIV

“Michael Lucey is far and away the best critic of modern French literature writing today. Someone is a riveting analysis, through Bourdieu, of the relation between sexuality, writing, and the social world. In attentive, rigorously contextualized, and casually assured readings, Lucey invites us to return to Colette, Genet, and Simone de Beauvoir, to Duras, Leduc, and Guibert, and to know them again, as if for the first time.”

Emma Wilson, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

Introduction: Roadmap to Someone

1 Colette and (Un)intelligibility
2 Sexuality and the Literary Field
3 Metapragmatics, Sexuality, and the Novel: Reading Jean Genet’s Querelle
4 Simone de Beauvoir and Sexuality in the Third Person
5 The Contexts of Marguerite Duras’s Homophobia
6 Multivariable Social Acrobatics and Misfit Counterpublics: Violette Leduc and Hervé Guibert
7 The Talk of the Town: Sexuality in Three Pinget Novels


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