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Chapter 10 - Queer Theories of the 1890s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Dustin Friedman
Affiliation:
American University, Washington DC
Kristin Mahoney
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
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Summary

There’s an incoherence in our thinking about the intersections of gender and sexuality in the 1890s that is conditioned by an overemphasis on the Oscar Wilde trials. 1895 saw the coalescing of diffuse components (aestheticism, dandyism, effeminacy) that would establish a modern definition of male homosexuality. Yet we recognize that Wilde had little interest in the sexological notion of inversion, advocating instead for the pederastic model that depended on the repudiation of cross-gender expression. This chapter reconsiders the legacies of the 1890s by shifting focus from Wilde to two figures who differently adjudicated the merits of pederasty and inversion: John Addington Symonds and Edward Carpenter. Analyzing the revisions Carpenter made to his pamphlets in preparation for the publication of Love’s Coming-of-Age – delayed by Wilde’s trials – the chapter shows the influence of Continental thinkers such as Ulrichs and Hirschfeld, as well as New Woman writers of the 1890s, in defusing the antagonism between pederasty and inversion.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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