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Queer TimingThe Emergence of Lesbian Sexuality in Early Cinema$
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Susan Potter

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042461

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042461.001.0001

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Troubling Sexual History

Troubling Sexual History

The Anachronistic Lesbian of Pandora’s Box

(p.23) 1. Troubling Sexual History
Queer Timing

Susan Potter

University of Illinois Press

This chapter considers the critical, historical and cinematic temporalities that structure the sexual legibility of the lesbian character in Die Büchse der Pandora (dir. G. W. Pabst, Germany, 1929). The Countess Geschwitz has been apprehended as a particular kind of pathological, sexual, and erotic figure, even as the shifting discursive fields that render her intelligible have not been exactly commensurate or coherent across the decades of her dramatic creation and subsequent cinematic representation and reception. Paradoxically, any narrative of the emergence of lesbian representation in early cinema is problematized by the very sexual identity that such a narrative claims to historicize. The Countess turns out to be both modernlesbian, polymorphously perverse—and backward—sexual invert, romantic friend—her sexual legibility temporally desynchronized from any single or singular historical period. The temporally burdened figure of the Countess also indexes a critical disavowal of the historical accumulations that comprise all modern sexuality.

Keywords:   Countess Geschwitz, Die Büchse der Pandora, G. W. Pabst, Lesbian representation, Pandora’s Box, Romantic friend, Sexual invert, Sexuality

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