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This fascinating study explores the pleasures and torments of love and sexuality as depicted in the works of six important French women writers: Rachilde, Colette, Leduc, Wittig, Cixous and Duras. Historically, erotic literature has been dominated by male writers. Feminist critics have argued that its central motifs of voyeurism, sadomasochism, incest and violence to women's bodies are governed by the unconscious fantasies and prejudices of a patriarchal sociocultural order. The contributors question how this sociocultural order has affected the erotic writing of the women writers studied. They explore the opportunities for, and constraints on, women's erotic writing in the early to mid-twentieth century through the works of Rachilde, Colette and Leduc. This is contrasted with the writing of prominent contemporary authors -- Wittig, Cixous and Duras -- to reveal new developments and diversification within the genre. The focus throughout is on how these writers deal with erotic language and rhetoric, their treatment of traditional themes of eroticism, and -- most vital to recent feminist criticism and theory -- their vision of the female body and women's sexual pleasure. The book provides key insights into the development of women's erotic discourse throughout this century and the diversity that characterizes it.