Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Examining a broad range of texts,“‘Superbly Sterile:’ Queer Reproduction in Victorian Literature and Culture,” argues that Thomas Hardy’s final naturalist novels, popular nineteenth-century vampire narratives, and the fiction of Oscar Wilde queered the bildungsroman (or novel of development) through characters who failed or refused to progress along sexual and maturational timelines. Where these texts’ critics have tended to read them as cautionary tales about homosexuality or predatory female sexuality, this dissertation contends that they also presented alternate forms of kinship and reproduction. They do so through the use of recursive, inverted, or otherwise backward relationships to time. Where Victorian sexology and psychology consistently pathologized temporal backwardness,“‘Superbly Sterile:’ Queer Reproduction in Victorian Literature and Culture” argues that these texts recuperate non-linear, recursive temporality in order to consider the ways in which it might sustain new modes of kinship and reproduction. These include the consanguineous-sexual bonds of vampire fiction; the historical kinship espoused in Hardy’s novels; and art’s status as a lasting product of homoerotic attraction in Wilde’s fiction. Along with queer theory, this project also places these narratives in the context of Victorian sexology, situating them within the work of Havelock Ellis, Carl Vogt, Otto Weininger, Max Nordau and other theorists who described both queer and female sexuality in terms of temporal recursiveness, arguing that both Hardy’s and Wilde’s fiction adapts the terms of this rhetoric in order to resist its often pathologizing and limiting effects. The chapter on Oscar Wilde’s fiction relies on the concept of jouissance, a shattering disruption of the dichotomies separating pleasure from pain, self from other, and life from death, constituting a transformative experience that defines queer, death-driven sexuality, in order to contend that in Wilde’s fiction privileges a death-driven male-homoerotic form of aesthetic reproduction over the more banal, bodily kinship and procreative bonds offered by women. The third chapter focuses on maternal vampires, arguing that these characters espouse a form of single-gender kinship, one which blurs the lines between consanguineous and sexual relationships, and which offers eternal life through a perverse return to the pathologized female body.
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Wilson, Mary Timothy, ""Superbly Sterile:" Queer Reproduction in Victorian Literature and Culture" (2015). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 2521.