Gillette's "article takes up [Koppelman's] invitation and joins recent reappraisals of French's work by seeking to make more visible her contributions to gay and lesbian writing" (p. 141). Koppelman's inclusion of "My Lorelei: A Heidelberg Romance" in her 1994 collection Two Friends and Other Nineteenth-Century Lesbian Stories by American Women Writers was the springboard for Gillette's essay which covers "My Lorelei," "The Stout Miss Hopkins' Bicycle," and "The Rented House" as stories that challenge heteronormativity: a shared kiss between women in "My Lorelei," a challenge of body norms in "The Stout Miss Hopkins' Bicycle," and "heteronormativity as a form of body-snatching" (p. 140) in "The Rented House."
What interests me about this recent article is that Gillette gives me hope that earlier criticism of Thanet (what little there is) was short-sighted:
"But while French did indeed hold and espouse many conservative views, this narrow characterization of her life and writing omits too much. . . . Significantly, none of these readings match what we might expect a 'conservative' writer to write about. That the names Alice French and Jane Crawford have also begun to appear in gay and lesbian histories and chronologies and anthologies of gay and lesbian literature likewise suggests more to her writing than previously thought" (p. 141).
Alice and Jane spent a lot of time together in their teens and early twenties, according to Gillette. In 1872, Jane married Joseph Crawford. Gillette mentions that McMichael assumed she was widowed, "the 1880 census, which found Jenny Crawford living at home with her parents. . .identifies her marital status with a D for divorced" (p. 143). By 1882, Alice and Jane had "rekindled" their relationship. While McMichael dismissed/ignored the romantic nature of Alice and Jane's relationship, Gillette uses Faderman's earlier (1981) discussion of Boston Marriages and examples from letters to show that McMichael's characterization of French's emotional letters as being "exaggerated" rather than romantic that he likely didn't have a full understanding of intimate female relationships.
That's all I have to share today, but the news that Jane may have been divorced rather than widowed was a revelation.
Gillette, Meg. "Keeping Queer Company in the Short Fiction of Alice French." American Literary Realism. Winter 2021: 53(2). pp. 138-158 Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/amerlitereal.53.2.0138
About this project:
I've been saying since 2004 that I was going to write a critical biography of Octave Thanet (Alice French). This blog is the start of that work and will include notes, links to research, and other OT related tidbits.