Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning And British Caricature, 1750-1900

Hardcover | November 10, 2016

byDominic Janes

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“I do not say you are it, but you look it, and you pose at it, which is just as bad,” Lord Queensbury challenged Oscar Wilde in the courtroom—which erupted in laughter—accusing Wilde of posing as a sodomite. What was so terrible about posing as a sodomite, and why was Queensbury’s horror greeted with such amusement? In Oscar Wilde Prefigured, Dominic Janes suggests that what divided the two sides in this case was not so much the question of whether Wilde was or was not a sodomite, but whether or not it mattered that people could appear to be sodomites. For many, intimations of sodomy were simply a part of the amusing spectacle of sophisticated life.

Oscar Wilde Prefigured is a study of the prehistory of this “queer moment” in 1895. Janes explores the complex ways in which men who desired sex with men in Britain had expressed such interests through clothing, style, and deportment since the mid-eighteenth century. He supplements the well-established narrative of the inscription of sodomitical acts into a homosexual label and identity at the end of the nineteenth century by teasing out the means by which same-sex desires could be signaled through visual display in Georgian and Victorian Britain. Wilde, it turns out, is not the starting point for public queer figuration. He is the pivot by which Georgian figures and twentieth-century camp stereotypes meet. Drawing on the mutually reinforcing phenomena of dandyism and caricature of alleged effeminates, Janes examines a wide range of images drawn from theater, fashion, and the popular press to reveal new dimensions of identity politics, gender performance, and queer culture.

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“I do not say you are it, but you look it, and you pose at it, which is just as bad,” Lord Queensbury challenged Oscar Wilde in the courtroom—which erupted in laughter—accusing Wilde of posing as a sodomite. What was so terrible about posing as a sodomite, and why was Queensbury’s horror greeted with such amusement? In Oscar Wilde Pref...

Dominic Janes is professor of modern history at Keele University, United Kingdom. He is the author of several books, including most recently Visions of Queer Martyrdom from John Henry Newman to Derek Jarman, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 10, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022635864X

ISBN - 13:9780226358642

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Introduction
Part 1: “Dammee Sammy you’r a sweet pretty creature”
Chapter 2. Macaronis
Chapter 3. Men of Feeling
Chapter 4. The Later Eighteenth Century: Conclusions
Part 2: “Corps de beaux”
Chapter 5. Regency Dandies
Chapter 6. Byronists
Chapter 7. The Earlier Nineteenth Century: Conclusions
Part 3: “An unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort”
Chapter 8. Aesthetes
Chapter 9. New Men
Chapter 10. The Later Nineteenth Century: Conclusions
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“In this important book, Janes traces a new history of queer self-aesthetics, well before the medicalized definition of homosexuality that emerged in the late nineteenth century. In working backwards from Oscar Wilde—whom Janes convincingly argues made use of the visual repertoire of the Georgian fop, macaroni, and dandy—and forwards to Edwardian stereotypes expressed in sources as diverse as caricatures and the theatre, Janes reveals the double-sided nature of late-Victorian homophobic humour as both destructive force but creative space for queer self-expression. Clothing, body shape, deportment, and personal performance come together to create a new queer archaeology.”