Straightjacket or Freedom: Transgender in the Life and Works of Rachilde




Stankiewicz, Teresa

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Texas State University, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies


Queer theory keeps changing as scholarly studies introduce new hypotheses on the relevance of gender in examination of culture and art. Using the definition of transgender as crossing the boundaries of society's "normative" sexual roles, this paper explores how transgender in Rachilde's life significantly impacted her plays. It touches upon transvestitism, staging gender and adds to the scholarly works on women's studies and gender studies. Marguerite Eymery Vallette presented herself as Rachilde, a man of letters in 1877. She was an important member of the symbolism and decadent writing movements in the 1890s. Cross-dressing and presenting herself as a man profoundly impacted the themes, symbolism and characters of her plays. Did this transgender give her freedom or did it become a straight-jacket limiting her work? Even though she claimed she was not a feminist, Rachilde embodied the freedom that women sought and wrote plays that vivified the struggles men and women had against conventions of society that defined civilized or gentile behavior. The critical methodology used for the examination of her plays is to review her themes, symbolism, characters and dialogue in terms of transgender reflections. Rachilde used transgender in complicated forms to express her frustrations with society's view of her personally and her works. Scholarly works on Rachilde have primarily focused on the translation of her work, her biography and analysis of her novels with no consideration of how the influence of transgender is manifested in her dramatic works. This paper will discuss transgender and explore its influence on Madame La Mort, La Poupee Transparent and L'Araignée de cristal to fill a gap in the analysis of Rachilde's work. Rachilde's plays express the complexity of transgender that is not only valid during le fin de siècle but continues to be significant during the current era.



transgender, Vallette, Marguerite Eymery, Rachilde, queer theory, sexual roles


Stankiewicz, T. (2010). Straightjacket or freedom: Transgender in the life and works of Rachilde. <i>Journal of Research on Women and Gender, 1</i>(1), pp. 62-74.


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