Victorian Aestheticism and Erotic Negativity

SDS logo
Hosted by

Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies

170 St. George Street, Room 616, English Department

Dustin Friedman: Victorian Aestheticism and Erotic Negativity

Dustin Friedman will present “Victorian Aestheticism and Erotic Negativity” on Thursday, February 27 at 5pm in Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street, Room 616. The talk is co-sponsored by Work in Nineteenth-Century Studies and the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

This talk addresses how Victorian aesthetes deployed their philosophy of “art for art’s sake” to establish a nascent sense of queer sexual identity and community. It focuses on Walter Pater’s essay “Winckelmann” (1864) to discuss a concept I call “erotic negativity,” where the traumatic realization of one’s queer desires transforms into a liberating sense of freedom from constricting norms. Ultimately, I argue that aesthetes adapted G.W.F. Hegel’s concept of “the negative” to articulate a claim rarely uttered in either Victorian or modern culture: namely, that being queer can be an advantage not despite but because of social hostility toward non-normative desires.

Dustin Friedman is Assistant Professor of Literature at American University. His areas of interest include queer theory, the history and theory of aesthetics, and global nineteenth-century writing. His book, Before Queer Theory: Victorian Aestheticism and the Self (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019) explores art as a form of queer resistance in the writings of authors such as Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), and the Michael Field poets (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper).

This event is free and open to all. Registration is not required. For more information, please contact the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at 416.978.6276


friedman poster