Event Date: 16 December 2017
The Bevan Suite
London WC1H 9JP.
Professor Dominic Janes (Keele) – British Caricature and Queer Fashioning 1750-1900
What are the links between the histories of fashion and of sexuality? Did Oscar Wilde invent the image of the camp and dandified homosexual? Or did he simply become its most celebrated exemplar through the sensational media coverage of his trials in 1895? This presentation aims to explore some of the themes behind a research project on ‘queer fashioning through caricature’ which aims to read queer performances by male aesthetes and phobic caricatures of those performances as inter-related phenomena, understanding the word ‘queer’ to refer to transgressions of normative constructions of gender and sexuality that focus on aspects of same-sex desire. Moreover it looks beyond the notion of the Oscar Wilde trials of 1895 as representing a ‘queer moment’ in the course of which sodomitical acts become joined to the novel creation of a homosexual identity. I propose rethinking visual mockery in the late Victorian period, but I have also been working on ways to supplement the well-established narrative of the inscription of sodomitical acts into a textually constructed homosexual label and identity at the end of the nineteenth century by teasing out the means by which same-sex desires could be signalled through visual display in Georgian and earlier Victorian Britain. This has involved exploring some of the ways in which images of macaronis in the eighteenth century and regency dandies in the early nineteenth century prefigured those of aesthetes in the later Victorian period. All of these stock types were associated with male effeminacy but, moreover, it was not only with the ‘outing’ of Oscar Wilde as a sodomite that dandy performance came to possess a degree of queer valence. Dandified performance, I will be argue, from the eighteenth-century onward operated as a cultural field in which male same-sex desire could be expressed.
Introduction by Dr Sean Brady (Birkbeck):