Abstract

This essay explores the queer fascination that Japanese material culture elicited from men of the late Victorian period, and explains that that fascination as a distinctive product of the geopolitical position of the rising Japanese Empire. Japan, I argue, represented extremes of both difference and sameness: difference, since it seemed, geographically and in certain respects culturally, as different from Britain as could be conceived; sameness, since it also represented the first non-Western power with a credible claim to coeval modernity. By virtue of this spatial and epistemic positioning, Japanese things became erotically and ethically invested conveyors of affect between men, and debates about whether and how to important Japanese artistic techniques were likewise freighted with queer significance. I explore these significances through close readings of works by Mortimer Menpes, J. A. M. Whistler, A. C. Swinburne, William Morris and, centrally, of the late “Japanese vellum” reprints of Oscar Wilde, which I treat as an archive of collective grief and historical feeling.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 1159-1183
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-08
Open Access
No
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