Oscar Wilde PrefiguredQueer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900

Oscar Wilde PrefiguredQueer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900

Dominic Janes

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226358642

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Lawyers representing Oscar Wilde claimed that the Marquess of Queensberry had libelled their client by scrawling a phrase on a card that the latter had left at the Albemarle Club in London. At the ensuing trial this was taken to refer to posing as a sodomite. This implies that there was an identifiable way in which to behave and appear in public life as a being sexually interested in other men. But what then what did sodomites look like? And has the role of Wilde been over-emphasised? This study asks whether his example should be appreciated not so much for having revolutionised the ability of such men to appear visible to each other as for having made the general public think that they knew how to recognise a sexual deviant on the spurious grounds that all homosexuals were like Wilde. The implication of this is that this period may have seen not so much the creation of a social identity for men who desired sex with men as the crude imposition of a stereotype upon them. These concepts are explored through case studies of the interactions of dandyism and caricature in the construction of queer forms of masculinity from the mid-Georgian to the late Victorian periods.