Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
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 - 2020)
While the scandal surrounding Oscar Wilde’s incarceration continued to hover at the edges of late Victorian consciousness, a smaller press war erupted: occultist Aleister Crowley published a defamatory article accusing William Somerset Maugham of plagiarizing Crowley’s persona for the antagonist of his new novel, The Magician (1908). Crowley’s supposed doppelgänger, Oliver Haddo, mimics Crowley’s esoteric practices by mesmerizing and marrying Margaret Dauncey, the intended wife of Doctor Arthur Burdon, for the purpose of using her virginal blood for alchemically generated life.This thesis analyses the connections between the occultism depicted in The Magician and Wildean Decadence, to suggest that Maugham uses esotericism to depict transgressive sexual subjectivities in the wake of Oscar Wilde’s trial for gross indecency (1895). This analysis takes place through a combination of historical works concerning Decadence, occultism, and the fin-de-siècle gothic; theoretical ideas surrounding sexual identity formation; and close reading of The Magician and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.The first chapter of this thesis considers the rhetoric of influence surrounding Wilde’s trial alongside the controversial use of medical hypnosis from the 1850s-1880s. By discussing these two topics in tandem, this chapter demonstrates the importance of homosociality and homosexuality in Wilde’s trial, Dorian’s identity formation in Dorian Gray, and Margaret’s mesmerism in The Magician. This discussion solidifies the relationship between queer influence and mesmerism, demonstrating that Maugham uses hypnotism to hearken to the danger of homosocial influence for hetereonormative sexual subjectivity. The second chapter considers Haddo’s alchemical attempts to create life as a metaphor for male-centred reproduction. By comparing Haddo’s relationship with his alchemical project to the tenets of aestheticism Wilde offers in the “Preface” to Dorian Gray, this chapter situates Haddo’s alchemical work as an artistic project, before reading his artistic creation of the alchemically-generated homunculi as symbolic of queer reproductive capacity. In the conclusion, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre are considered as literary antecedents for Maugham’s novel, and the end of The Magician, wherein Haddo and the site of his experiments are destroyed, is read as an attempt on Maugham’s part to cleanse himself of queer subjectivity.
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.