“Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900” by Dominick Janes— Expressing Who We Are

Janes, Dominic. “Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900”, University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Expressing Who We Are

Amos Lassen

In “Oscar Wilde Prefigured”, Dominic Janes takes us to the England of Oscar Wilde as he looks at how men who wanted to have sex with other men expressed themselves. We see that since the middle of the eighteenth century, they did do through clothing, style, and behavior and were labeled as sodomites by those around them. since the mid-eighteenth century. Although history credits Wilde with the term, we see that this had been going on look before he made his appearance. He is, however,

the pivot by which Georgian figures and twentieth-century camp stereotypes meet. Janes looks at what was regarded as dandyism and caricature and explores theater, fashion, and the popular press to show new dimensions of identity politics, gender performance, and queer culture.

We see a continuous yet varied tradition of representations of sodomy and effeminacy and we upset the argument that male homosexuality only gained public visibility in the late nineteenth century. Wilde has long been referred to as the “first” publicly gay man because it was held that “he set the standard for literary and iconographic representations of homosexual men in the twentieth century”. Here, however, Wilde is convincingly presented as the end point of this. As we are taken through the areas of effeminacy, homoeroticism, and sodomy, we realize that we have rethink these. “Queer self-fashioning predates Wilde and perhaps even influenced him through codes and behavior. For over hundred years before Wilde came onto the scene, stereotypes and caricatures shaped the way people saw gay men and how they behaved. Janes reveals the double-sided nature of late-Victorian homophobic humor as destructive and creative at the same time setting the stage for Wilde to enter.


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