Created By: Mashka Sutton
Renée Vivien was a British-born poet who lived in Paris, France, for most of her adult life from 1899 until her death in 1909. She is well-known for her translations of Sappho's poetry from Greek to French and for her own poetry, which is heavily influenced by Sappho's works. She is an important literary figure in queer history, as she explored explicitly lesbian themes at a time when lesbianism was still considered a mental illness, even if it was more accepted in Paris than in her birthplace, London. She is also worth remembering for her gender-bending presentations, often dressing in more masculine manners for photo shoots and dressing up as a "prince" when posing for her lovers. Her photographs, in addition to her poetry, provide important early moments in the historical record of queerness. These clear depictions of queerness appealed to lesbian feminists in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, who translated and published her work in an attempt to create a more complete account of lesbian history. Vivien's work was started due to and influenced by her woman lovers. The losses of these personal attachments in addition to her disappointment with how her works of poetry were received led to her increasing self-isolation and self-destructive behavior, culminating in her early death at thirty-two.