This article explores the relationship between literary fiction and sexual knowledge in late-Victorian Britain, arguing that far from existing in a simply contextual relationship to the making and consumption of the period's literature, late-Victorian polemics about sexual knowledge were refracted in the content and narrative form of popular fiction. Despite the volume and diversity of Victorian publications offering sexual information and advice, historic states of knowledge remain a subject of conjecture. Focusing on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) and Sarah Grand's The Heavenly Twins (1893), two bestselling novels with heroines who occupy the "borderland" between child- and adulthood, this discussion considers how writers of fiction respond to issues of sexual epistemology in their plots and narrative methods. Hardy's novel is informed by a radical endorsement of sexual knowledge, while Grand's work is characterized by a more careful consideration of how sexual information should be communicated.


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pp. 211-233
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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