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102Victorian Review the text with a sophisticated awareness of poststructuralism, especially feminist psychoanalytic and deconstructive approaches. Certainly any Victorianist would enjoy it. In addition, the book should appeal particularly to readers interested in the process of artistic development as well as in the related issue of how child prodigies use their early successes in their later work; this characteristic should attract readers outside even the wide parameters of Victorian studies. SHARON ARONOFSKY WELTMAN Louisiana State University Linda Dowling. Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford. Ithaca and London: ComeU UP, 1994. xvi + 173. $25.95 US (cloth). Between 1854 and 1884 there flourished in Oxford a unique brand of "homosociality", an intense and ideaUstic male comradeship inspired and nurtured by the study of literae humaniores or "Greats". The dates are important and quite specific, beginning with the institutional and cunicular reforms which enshrined Greek studies at the heart of the inteUectual Ufe of Oxford and ending with the aboUtion of the ceUbacy requirement for college FeUows. As Linda Dowling shows, this period "would in later years be recalled with great tenderness by the men who had experienced it either as undergraduates or dons" (85). The coUeges were whoUy residential and their Ufe communal, but the tutorial system made for a passionate intimacy between individual students and fellows, a "species of devotion" which was "peculiarly Oxonian" (33). The Greek ideal, deriving from Plato and mediated by eighteenth-century German HeUenism, provided not only an education but a source of civic, national and imperial virtue, an antidote to materialism and an alternative to Tractarian "effeminacy" or to Kingsley's Christian manliness. Older civic discourses had also owed a debt to ancient Greece, and Dowling distinguishes between the classical republican idea of the citizen as warrior (derived from Thucydides) and the Oxford Hellenism which sought to accommodate and transcend the Uberal values of the modem industrial state. One of the highlights of Dowling's book is the reading of Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" as a key poem of the mid-century where, as in the Crimean War section of Maud, we find "the archaic warrior ideal surfacing in the midst of a bewilderingly complex modernity" (51). (The possibUities for readings of other Victorian poets are suggestive: Hopkins, for instance, Reviews103 mentioned only briefly, whose fascination with male "procreancy" may have been wrongly interpreted by feminist critics.) The warrior ideal had feared the debilitating effects of modem life (heated nurseries were seen as particularly threatening) and had associated ease and luxury with effeminacy and "corruption"; the Oxford ideal, for all its homoerotic overtones, its Platonic "procreancy of the spirit", emphasized the "manliness" of intimate relationships between men. In an ironic twist of intellectual history unforeseen by Mill, Arnold or Jowett, male love was "triumphantly proclaimed the very fountain of civic health in a polity that has been urged to take as its cultural model the ancient city-state of Athens" (79). What then was the relationship of this version of Hellenism to the desire for and experience of sexual acts between men? John Addington Symonds later came to resent the ambiguous, contradictory education which inflamed young men with "Platonic" ideas of mascuUne love whUe defining actual erotic relationships as unnatural; it was only after he had left England for good that he was able to enjoy fully consummated relationships with men. Pater, however, dying in 1894, just before WUde's trials, remained unchallenged by the sexual realism of a modem, urban culture. After Wilde, and weU into our own century, the discourse of homosexuality was medicalized, the idea of the "abnormal" replacing Victorian moral and legal categories of the unnatural or the criminal. DowUng's book begins and ends with Wilde himself, finding in his speech from the dock in his second trial and in certain passages of De Profundis a crucial moment of homosexual expressiveness which draws on the discourse of Hellenism to link an ancient ideal of male love with an essentiaUy modem understanding of individual and social identity: such a moment can be seen as "the temporary space, always implied, though never mentioned as such, in Foucault's influential analysis of nineteenth-century sexuaUty ... an idea of male...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 102-103
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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