POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Wendy Graham, Vassar English professor and author, sheds new light on Victorian discourses on sexuality and masculinity through a thick description of literary bravado, the emotions of male bonding within cliques, and homoerotic frissons among the creators and reviewers of Pre-Raphaelitism in her new book, Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity (Columbia University Press, December 2017).
Founded by a band of young iconoclasts in the late 1800’s, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood stunned Victorian England with its revaluation of culture and lifestyle. In her book, Graham traces the critical discourses that greeted the Pre-Raphaelites’ debut, shaped their contemporary reception, and continued to inform responses to them well after their heyday. She explains the mechanics of fame and the politics of scandal contributing to the rise of aestheticism, providing a new interpretation of the place of aesthetic counterculture in Victorian England. Graham shows that the Pre-Raphaelites innovated many of the phenomena now associated with Oscar Wilde, arguing that they were foundational for him in forging an artistic and personal identity with a full-blown publicity apparatus. Wilde had models. This book is about them.
Wendy Graham is professor of English at Vassar College and the author of Henry James’s Thwarted Love (1999).
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.