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bastard pop - pejorative - term of abuse


Illegitimacy was a term in common usage for the condition of being born of parents who are not validly married to one another; the legal term is bastardy. That status could be changed (in either direction) by civil law or canon law (see Princes in the Tower for an example of the former). In some locations, marriage of an illegitimate child's parents after his or her birth results in his or her legitimation.

In many societies the law did not (or does not) give illegitimate persons the same rights of inheritance as legitimate ones, and in some, not even the same freedoms. In England as late as the 1960s, for example, illegitimacy carried a strong social stigma among both middle and working class people, as it also did in the United States. As recently as the 1960s, unwed mothers were strongly encouraged, and at times even forced, to give their children up for adoption. Oft times, an illegitimate child would be raised by grandparents or married relatives as the "sister" or "nephew" of the unwed mother, just as in medieval and Renaissance Europe priests' children (especially bishops' and popes' children) were usually called their "nephews," giving us the term "nepotism". In those cultures the fathers of bastard children did not incur the same censure nor, generally, much legal responsibility, due both to social attitudes about sex and the difficulty of determining the father of a child with any degree of accuracy.

By the latter third of the 20th century in the U.S., all the states had adopted uniform laws that codify the responsibility of both parents to provide support and care for a child regardless of their parents' marital status and giving illegitimate (and adopted) persons the same rights to inherit their parents' property as anyone else. Generally speaking in the United States illegitimacy has been supplanted by the concept "born out of wedlock". One does not speak of a child being illegitimate; all children are equally legitimate.

Stating that a child is less entitled to civil rights, or in a state of sin, due to the marital status of his/her parents would be seen as highly controversial by even the most conservative people in the West today. Many religions still view extramarital or premarital sexual intercourse as a sin, but they generally feel that any resultant child is not in any state of sin. However some religious fraternities, notably Opus Dei, still prohibit those born out of wedlock from becoming members.

Today the word "bastard" remains:

Due to the common use of the word as a mildly profane generic insult for any man, regardless of birth status, many students are surprised to find that the use of the word, when referring to a child of unmarried parents (for example Shakespeare's John the Bastard) is seen as entirely appropriate by their teachers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegitimacy [Jul 2005]

La Bātarde / The Bastard (1964) - Violette Leduc

La Bātarde / The Bastard (1964) - Violette Leduc [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The New Yorker
Remarkable ... filled with sudden anguished, tender phrases of sensual beauty.

Kirkus Reviews
"La Bātarde is one of the most extraordinry books to have come out of France in some time."

An obsessive and revealing self-portrait of a remarkable woman humiliated by the circumstances of her birth and by her physical appearance, La Bâtarde relates Violette Leduc's long search for her own identity through a series of agonizing and passionate love affairs with both men and women. When first published, La Bâtarde earned Violette Leduc comparisons to Jean Genet for the frank depiction of her sexual escapades and immoral behavior. A confession that contains portraits of several famous French authors, this book is more than just a scintillating memoir—like that of Henry Miller, Leduc's brilliant writing style and attention to language transform this autobiography into a work of art.

Violette Leduc was born the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl and was encouraged to write by Maurice Sachs and Simone de Beauvoir. Her first novel (L'Asphyxie [In the Prison of Her Skin]) was published by Camus for Gallimard and earned her praise from Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet. She went on to write eight more books, including Ravages, L'Affamee, and La Folie en tete [Mad in Pursuit], the second part of her literary autobiography.

"Notoriety aside, Leduc is first and foremost a first-rate writer. Not someone who just tells a provocative story and is unafraid to reveal the most offensive parts of her personality and of her experience, but someone who is in love with words, struggles with them, wrestles with language, dies for adjectives, is tortured by her search for le mot juste."—Women's Review of Books

"Whoever speaks to us from the depths of his loneliness speaks to us of ourselves. In La Bâtarde, a woman is descending into the most secret part of herself and telling us about all she finds there with an unflinching sincerity, as though there were no one listening."—Simone de Beauvoir

-- http://www.centerforbookculture.org/dalkey/backlist/leduc.html [Jun 2005]

But popular and commercial success eluded her until 1964 when La Bâtarde (The Bastard) was published--minus the Thérèse et Isabelle section, which her publisher deemed too explicit in its depiction of lesbian lovemaking. ( Thérèse et Isabelle was finally published in 1966 and made into a film in 1968.) --http://www.glbtq.com/literature/leduc_v.html [Jun 2005]

Therese (Essy Persson) and Isabelle (Anna Gael) in
Therese und Isabell (1968) - Radley Metzger [Amazon.com]
(© 1998 First Run Features. All rights reserved.)
image sourced here.

Violette Leduc (1907 - 1972)
In 1968 Radley Metzger made a film of Leduc's novel Therese and Isabelle. The film was a commercial feature about adolescent lesbian love, starring Essy Persson and Anna Gaėl. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violette_Leduc [Mar 2005]

See also: Essy Persson - erotic fiction - lesbian - Radley Metzger - 1964

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