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88Victorian Review conclusions about performers' socio-economic origins are meaningless. By uncritically repeating fallacious data, the same flawed eUtist result is reproduced. In contrast Taylor ' s observation that many successful actormanagers from the professional classes married actresses from theatrical families deserves greater emphasis. The significance of these marital alliances went beyond the conveyance of technical skills; as Taylor acknowledges, the female Bancroft Wigan, Kendal, Boucicault, and Vezin had theatrical savvy and drive that made the partnerships successful. Thus, the amateur infiltration of professional ranks is in its most conspicuous acolytes a male phenomenon, though similar lapses in technique (sometimes excused as psychological introspection or condemned as incompetence) are evident in the "temperamental" Mrs. Campbell who was not brought up in the theatre but promoted herself from amateur to professional. As an account of the external influences on the development of modernism ' s acting styles, Players and Performances is admirable. The case study method is unevenly explored, but there is much in each chapter of genre analysis to make a cogent historical argument and account for a century of diversity and controversy in the art and craft of acting. Tracy C. Davis Harvard University Richard Dellamora. Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism. Chapel Hill and London: U of North Carolina P, 1990. ? + 276. The project of writing gay Uterary history requires that the scholar accommodate a variety of interdependent theoretical perspectives and systems of knowledge. These include the discursive theory of Foucault, which posits that the regulatory languages of law and medicine are sites at which gay people have shaped strategies of resistance; the research of social-constructionists like Jeffrey Weeks, who demonstrate that the categories of perversity have been unstable in their signifying power; and feminist practice, which illuminates the processes by which subjectivity is constructed or negotiated. Richard Dellamora describes his survey of Victorian sexual-aesthetic writings as a "synthetic study" (1) of desire between men: the great merit of Dellamora ' s approach is its ability to Reviews89 situate what he calls "micropractices"—Victorian writers' particular deployments of coded signifiers, or the secret lexicon of the homosexual tradition—within several registers: the material-historical, the genderpolitical , the semiotic, the post-structuralist. Most importantly, Dellamora' s supple investigations demonstrate the possibiUty of broadening the focus of gay historiography well beyond expUcit articulations of erotic desire. His unraveUing of indirect discourses, ambiguous signs and intertextual gestures locates the currents of male selfidentification within the larger framework of Victorian cultural critiques, and within the community of male writers, gay and straight who were engaged in the production of revisionary mascuUne discourses. This attentive hermeneutic is perhaps what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick had in mind when she called for "more complicated, more diachronically apt more offcentred . . . more daring and prehensile applications of our present understanding of what it may mean for one thing to signify another" (11). Because Sedgwick ' s feminist critique of masculine desire occupies a position of enormous influence in contemporary gender studies, an acquaintance with her work is a useful, even necessary point of origin for reading Dellamora ' s study. Essentially, Sedgwick situates homosexuaUty upon a spectrum of "homosocial desire" that includes aU forms of male bonding, from the most sanctioned to the most reprobated. The male heterosexual condition, she argues, is one of endemic homosexual panic: given the similarity of all homosocial bonds, the straight man experiences anxiety that his bonds wül be perceived as homosexual. This anxiety, in turn, is the site at which the regulatory mechanism of homophobia is operative; homophobia controls not only homosexuals, but more importantly in her view, it keeps heterosexual men on the straight and narrow. Homophobia, in short, shapes the paths of male entitlement in western culture. Richard Dellamora ' s response to Sedgwick is supplementary rather than corrective. At the outset of his study, he poses the now famiUar question, "What does one mean when one speaks of a homosexual subject?" (6), in order to describe the limitations of Sedgwick's focus (and, perhaps, the Umits of her territory) and to make space for his own investigations. Because Sedgwick ' s goal is to illuminate the consequences for women in a gender system regulated by homophobic homosociality, she illustrates how desire...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 88-93
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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