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Title:Sex, aesthetics, and modernity in the British romance of Italy, 1870-1914
Author(s):Lehnen, Carl
Director of Research:Goodlad, Lauren
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Saville, Julia Frances; Nazar, Hina
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Victorian literature
Vernon Lee
Abstract:This dissertation is about the desire for the foreign and the desire for the past. In particular, this dissertation argues that late Victorian and Edwardian writers—particularly Walter Pater, J. A. Symonds, Vernon Lee, and E. M. Forster—used narratives about travel to Italy in order to articulate non-normative sexualities in terms of the foreign, the anachronistic, and the southern. In this study, I examine a set of texts from the turn of the last century that express or attempt to make sense of same-sex desires at a time before a notion of sexual identity rooted in sexual object choice could be taken for granted. In the absence of a widely accepted model (affirmative or otherwise) for their desires or the kinds of social collectivity that they dimly intuited or explicitly longed for, these writers turned to the foreign in pursuit of new ways of being in the world. For them, Italy could be represented as a place that permitted, or even encouraged, erotic and social relations that were not possible in a supposedly deficient and oppressive modern Britain. In articulating sexuality in terms of Italy, they drew on and revised a range of nineteenth-century discourses about travel, culture, history, and art that were linked to discourses of race and evolutionism. Anchoring my analysis in the categories of space, sex, and genre, I illuminate the relations between politics and form and contend that the intra-European distinction between north and south structured Victorian discourses of history, sexuality, and aesthetics.
Issue Date:2012-02-01
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Carl Lehnen
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-02-01
Date Deposited:2011-12

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