Dalla patologizzazione all’amore per gli ‘anormali’: La rappresentazione del desiderio dissidente tra donne in testi (pseudo)scientifici del tardo Ottocento e del primo Novecento

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Focussing on Italian texts published in the late 19th century and early 20th century this essay argues that rather than being taboo, the subject of female same-sex desire was discussed in medical and psychiatric works, as well as in literature. Moreover, while the subject was often treated in a negative and pathologising ways, in some texts it was portrayed more ambiguously, or even subversively. I trace the intertextual influence between literature and scientific texts, and also consider erotic works, which were considered equivocal at the time but today constitute an important piece of the history of sexuality in Italy. Indeed, as I show, some of these texts presented themselves as ‘pseudo’ scientific texts and seemed to be in direct dialogue with medical treatises, in complex but also satirical ways.


Translated title of the contributionFrom Pathologisation to Love for the 'Abnormals': The representation of dissident desire between women in (pseudo)scientific texts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Original languageItalian
Title of host publicationTribadi, Sodomiti, Invertite E Invertiti, Pederasti, Femminelle, Ermafroditi…
Subtitle of host publicationPer una storia dell'omosessualità, della bisessualità e delle trasgressioni gi genere in Italia
EditorsUmberto Grassi, Vincenzo Lagioia, Gian-Paolo Romagnani
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • same-sex desire, tribades, sexology, erotica