Medicine masculinity, same-sex desire and the Gothic in Teleny
B est known
today for its alleged association with Oscar Wilde, Teleny, or The
Reverse of the Medal (1893), is a classic erotic and, in many
respects, Gothic novel that charts the brutal and tragic progress of an
obsessive homosexual passion. 1 The novel, though, is not necessarily, as Alan
Sinfield suggests, nothing more than the celebration of ‘an
First published in 1893, Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal , the classic erotic novel of homosexual love, is, perhaps, today best known for its alleged associations with Oscar Wilde. Indeed, authorship of the 1986 Gay Men’s Press edition is explicitly attributed to ‘Oscar Wilde and others’. 1 Critical speculation and emphasis on the enigma of its production has, however, resulted in a critical tendency to concentrate on Teleny ’s relationship to Wilde’s wider literary output and cultural (or, alternately, subcultural) milieu. On the
Gothic, in a sense, has always been 'queer'. This book illustrates the rich critical complexity which is involved in reading texts through queer theories. It provides a queer reading of such early Gothic romances as William Beckford's Vathek, Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk, and Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer. Building upon critical trend of desire between men, the book examines Frankenstein's engagement with sexual rhetoric in the early nineteenth century. It explores some ways in which the signifying practices of queerness are written into the language and, therefore, the signifying practices of Gothic fiction. Teleny's apparently medicalised representation of homosexual erotic love contains some strikingly Gothic elements. The book examines how the courtroom drama of the E. M. Forster's A Passage to India focuses on the monstrous possibility of miscegenation, an Indian accused of raping an Englishwoman. Antonia White's Frost in May can be contextualised to the concept of the 'lesbian Gothic', which helpfully illuminates the representation of adolescent female subjectivity and sexuality. Same-sex desire is represented indirectly through sensuous descriptions of the female body and intertextual allusions to other erotic texts. The book considers how the vampire has become an ambivalent emblem of gay sexuality in late twentieth-century Gothic fiction by examining Interview with the Vampire and Lost Souls. The understanding of the Gothic and queer theory in a pop video is achieved by considering how Michael Jackson's use of the Gothic in Thriller and Ghosts queers the temporality of childhood.
This book provides a reading of both fictional and medical writings concerned with auto-erotic sexuality in the long nineteenth century. It examines the discourse on masturbation in medical works by influential English, Continental and American practitioners such as J. H. Kellogg, E. B. Foote, Havelock Ellis, Krafft-Ebing and R. V. Pierce, as well as a number of anonymously authored texts popular in the period. The book demonstrates the influence and impact of these writings, not only on the underworld literatures of Victorian pornography but also in the creation of well-known characters by authors now regarded as canonical including Dean Farrar, J. S. Le Fanu, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. It is not merely a consideration of the male masturbator however: it presents a study of the largely overlooked literature on female masturbation in both clinical and popular medical works aimed at the female reader, as well as in fiction. The book concludes with a consideration of the way the distinctly Victorian discourse on masturbation has persisted into the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries with particular reference to Willy Russell's tragic-comic novel, The Wrong Boy (2000) and to the construction of ‘Victorian Dad’, a character featured in the adult comic, Viz.
strategy which revises Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick’s claim that homosexuality is only metaphorically present
in the form. Mahawatte thus provides an innovative reading of how camp
and the Gothic are combined in Eliot’s work.
Diane Mason, in ‘“That mighty love which
maddens one to crime”: medicine, masculinity, same-sex desire and
the Gothic in Teleny ’ (Chapter 5), examines how Teleny
The archive has assumed a new significance in the history of sex, and this book visits a series of such archives, including the Kinsey Institute’s erotic art; gay masturbatory journals in the New York Public Library; the private archive of an amateur pornographer; and one man’s lifetime photographic dossier on Baltimore hustlers. The subject topics covered are wide-ranging: the art history of homoeroticism; casual sex before hooking-up; transgender; New York queer sex; masturbation; pornography; sex in the city. The duality indicated by the book’s title reflects its themes. It is an experiment in writing an American sexual history that refuses the confines of identity sexuality studies, spanning the spectrum of queer, trans, and the allegedly ‘normal’. What unites this project is a fascination with sex at the margins, refusing the classificatory frameworks of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and demonstrating gender and sexual indecision and flexibility. And the book is also an exploration of the role of the archive in such histories. The sex discussed is located both in the margins of the archives, what has been termed the counterarchive, but also, importantly, in the pockets of recorded desire located in the most traditional and respectable repositories. The sexual histories in this book are those where pornography and sexual research are indistinguishable; where personal obsession becomes tomorrow’s archive. The market is potentially extensive: those interested in American studies, sexuality studies, contemporary history, the history of sex, psychology, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, queer studies, trans studies, pornography studies, visual studies, museum studies, and media studies.
), p. 591.
33 Pierce, The People’s Commonsense Medical Adviser , p. 796, my emphases.
34 Nuttall, Pronouncing English Dictionary , p. 226.
35 Ironically, according to this somewhat simplistic criteria of what constitutes ‘a man’, the predominantly homosexual construction of René Teleny, a character considered in detail in Chapter 4 , would certainly qualify for the title. In the novel, Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal , the eponymous protagonist has a ‘one-night stand’ with a
-century medical discourse. The literary focus of this chapter is the erotic novel, Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal (1893), a work currently celebrated primarily for its putative associations with Oscar Wilde. My reading, however, puts aside this speculation as to the book’s authorship and concentrates instead on the constructions of, and relationship between, the eponymous concert pianist, René Teleny, and his male lover, Camille Des Grieux. I demonstrate how these characters, when examined through the medico-sexual discourses of masturbation, degeneration and sexual
further example of a consumptive woman dying in an act of debauchery can be found in the later pornographic text Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal (1893), a novel I will consider in detail in Chapter 4 . In Teleny, when Camille Des Grieux visits a brothel in the ‘Quartier Latin’ with his friends, they watch two prostitutes engage in a furious act of cunnilingus. During this performance, one of the whores, a girl ‘evidently in the very last stage of consumption’ goes ‘off into a fit of hysterics’ – ‘The cadaverous wretch had in a fit of lubricity broken a blood
to shape. He is there alongside Andros,
Califia, Delany, Preston, Townsend, Travis, and the author of the famous
classic Teleny (by a different ‘Anonymous’). He had more entries than any
John Preston wrote in 1992, at the birth of Badboy, that ‘For myself
and other gay men, pornographic writings were how we learned the
parameters of our sexual life. We could have more than a simple ejaculation with a nameless partner. Pornography was how we developed our
fantasies, both sexual and emotional.’138 We have seen that the content of
these texts was what