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Chapter 10 - The Ecstatic Lash of the Poetic Line

Swinburne, Hopkins and the Pleasures of Bondage

from Part III - Pleasures and Ornaments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

Andrea Brady
Affiliation:
Queen Mary University of London
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Summary

In Masoch’s novel Venus in Furs, three ‘Negresses’ magically appear at the moment that the speaker signs away his legal rights to life. This fantasy is an example of how actual bondage and historical slavery shape the sadomasochistic imagination. This chapter traces that imagination through poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne and Gerard Manley Hopkins, written at the height of Victorian sexology. It looks at the metaphor of the plough or the ploughman in relation to bondage and Hopkins’s class politics, and at the flagellation fantasies in Swinburne’s poetry (including his juvenile compositions), and the way that those poems fetishise the foot, mouth and ‘bum’. It discusses the theatricality and suspension of agency involved in masochism in relation to specific examples of colonial violence, to challenge the idea that the voluntary submission to constraint in radical sex practices can undermine forms of social domination.

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Poetry and Bondage
A History and Theory of Lyric Constraint
, pp. 311 - 349
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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