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Prosecuted for obscenity in her novel Monsieur Venus, Marguerite Eymery (pen name Rachilde), an apparently genteel young woman from a provincial bourgeois family, burst onto the French literary scene in 1884 amid scandal. This story of a sadistic transvestite and her pretty male lover was the first in a long series of novels, plays and stories dealing often in the most macabre and sensationalistic terms with sadism, gender inversion, and sexual desire. At the heart of the French literary world, Rachilde's life and writing defied patriarchal rules, particularly in relation to female sexuality, but she consistently and vehemently rejected feminism. Her extraordinary life and work, including a vast output as a literary reviewer, offer a prism through which to view the vibrant social and cultural history of France from the belle epoque to the Second World War. This book is the first serious critical study of Rachilde's work. Exploring the interwoven themes of French naturalism, modernism, decadence and feminism, it will be essential reading for anyone interested in French culture, literature and sexuality at the turn of the twentieth century.
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