Comparative Decadence? Male Queerness in Late Nineteenth- and Late Twentieth-Century Fiction

  • Rainer EmigEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


Emig’s chapter compares Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming-Pool Library. After outlining the different historical contexts of queer masculinity in the novels, it points out parallels, such as its legal repression in late Victorianism and at the time of the AIDS crisis under Thatcher. Wilde’s novel provokes with homoerotic longing, Hollinghurst’s with pornographic depictions of gay sex. Both texts are decadent fantasies, yet also criticise double standards of hegemonic masculinity and heteronormativity. Hollinghurst’s novel further exposes its Wildean subtext as class-ridden and colonial. In addition, the scandalous male as narcissistic consumer of Wilde’s time has become the norm in postmodernity. The greatest provocation of Hollinghurst’s novel is that its liberated queer lifestyle rests on privilege acquired by oppression, also of homosexuals.


Male queerness Hegemonic masculinity Heteronormativity Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray Alan Hollinghurst The Swimming-Pool Library 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and LinguisticsJohannes Gutenberg-Universitaet MainzMainzGermany

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