Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
This dissertation examines the trade in pornographic texts in London during the late Victorian period. It argues that not only are these texts underrepresented in scholarship, but also that they provide vital historical documentation on the evolution of sexual thought and were among the first to acknowledge the link between sexuality and identity. This dissertation establishes a narrative of the publishers, writers, and consumers involved in the pornographic book trade and their material connection to the study and history of sexuality; the basis of this history is extensive archival work and research informed as much by what information was available in archives and, sometimes more importantly, by what was missing. In detailing the history of pornographic books and how the trade functioned in the metropolis of London—and Britain more generally—this dissertation focuses on a new intellectual movement, closely aligned to sexology but without medical pretense, that prefigured contemporary understandings of sexuality. Certain publishers took greater risks with the material they published in response to expanding readerships that created a world of fantasy that was increasingly introspective. This dissertation argues that late Victorian pornographic books reflected and, in some cases, magnified the interior sexual lives of readers. The content of the pornographic texts in this study progressively presented readers with sexualities that were increasingly connected with self-identity rather than simply series of acts. Collector cultures grew alongside this evolution in pornographic books and, as a result, created niche markets for books as aesthetic objects as well as for their specialized content. This dissertation makes new and original critical interventions in important areas of book history and print culture studies. The examination of the pornographic book trade during that latter part of the nineteenth century argues that exploitation and adaptation or earlier literary sex book traditions resulted in new presentations and understandings of the impact clandestine books could have on sex. This dissertation is the first significant scholarship on the 1899 novel Des Grieux and also the first to positively identify publisher William Lazenby.
Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
This thesis studies national conceptions of sexuality and the geo-politics of the Decadent movement in the writing and the literary afterlife of the Irish author and critic Oscar Wilde. In his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his play Salomé, Wilde’s French influences are immediately apparent, but their purpose demands critique. I argue Wilde’s use of French Decadence functions as a code for types of art and sexuality that were not permissible to express in the social and legal environment of England in the late 19th century. French Decadence exemplified contrasting and complementary ideas of beauty and perversity which Wilde incorporated into his own writing. From his engagement with French Decadent art arose an idealised vision of Paris as a region where individuals may practice unconventional types of art and sexuality with greater freedom in comparison to the oppressive moral atmosphere of England. In Wilde’s works, modern Paris holds affinities with the Classical Mediterranean world not only through her literature, but through her law. After 1791, sodomy was no longer a criminal offense in France: this legal circumstance in combination with the unrestrained eroticism in French art produced a tempting fantasy of sexual tolerance in France at the fin-de-siècle.