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Secret Selves: Confession and Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography Paperback – June 22, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Those Victorians. For decades the prevailing presumption was that mid- to late-19th-century British sexuality was completely repressed, or at least hidden by shame-filled secrecy. Then, in the 1960s, historians began understanding the complexity and often shocking blatancy of Victorian eroticism. In Secret Selves: Confession and Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography, Oliver S. Buckton argues that literary "secrecy"--the very act of holding back information in a novel or memoir--was a primary and provocative indicator of Victorian homosexuality. Examining confessional writings by Edward Carpenter (whom many consider the moral and political forefather of the gay movement), John Henry Cardinal Newman, John Addington Symonds, and Oscar Wilde, Buckton discovers that all of them say a great deal more than they seem to by quite consciously saying much less.

While Buckton's logic feels, at first, counterintuitive, it is ultimately extraordinarily convincing. His chapters on Carpenter and Symonds are strong, though a little predictable; his exegesis of Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua is stunning; and his scanning of Oscar Wilde's work--particularly the already much-analyzed The Importance of Being Ernest and The Picture of Dorian Gray--is original and constantly surprising. Secret Selves promises new, invigorating thinking about gay writing and history, and it delivers in full. --Michael Bronski


"In this major new study, Oliver Buckton widens the range of canonical works within Victorian autobiography by making a convincing case for the importance of John Addington Symond's "Memoirs" and Edward Carpenter's "My Days and Dreams" in addition to more familiar titles such as Newman's "Apologia pro Vita Sua" and Wilde's "De Profundis". Buckton demonstrates the special importance of this genre in the social construction of modern homosexuality and the fact that desire between men is a much more varied phenomenon, more closely tied to particular rhetorical strategies than is usually taken to be the case. This book will change the course of both Victorian and gay studies."--Richard Dellamora, author of "Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (June 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080784702X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807847022
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,060,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver S. Buckton was born in London, England, and educated at Cambridge University. He has lived in the United States since 1985, receiving his PhD from Cornell before taking a teaching position at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. At FAU he teaches courses on Victorian literature, gender and sexuality, film, and spy fiction. His first book, Secret Selves: Confession and Same Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography was published in 1998. He published the first book-length study of Robert Louis Stevenson and travel writing, Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson: Travel, Narrative, and the Colonial Body in 2007. While researching this book, Oliver Buckton traveled widely to places visited by Stevenson, including Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, and California. He has published widely on various authors including Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Doris Lessing, and Len Deighton.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bravo to Oliver Buckton for unmasking the stuffy conventions of Victorian life and revealing the true erotic nature of this seemingly reserved society. Dr. Buckton, with a bit of wit and wry humor offers up to the the reader the unmasking of such writers as Forster and Carpenter, yet it is his nonjudgemental style and flair for literary analysis that makes this book a better read then most others on this subject. He makes no apology for his subject matter, and if anything, this is his confessional too as he purges the findings of his research allowing conventional readers to peep into an erotic world without fear of shame. I feel any English major would benefit greatly from this book and certainly would shake up their professors with these stunning concepts....A must for the Grad student!
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Secret Selves: Confession and Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography
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