Waugh identifies this philistinism with the office of British Home Secretary, occupied from to by Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the infamous "Jix," who once boasted: In Low's cartoon, Joynson-Hicks, dressed in policeman's uniform, expels from "The Literary Hyde Park" a phalanx of controversial authors, each "accompanied by his literary inspiration": Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, H. Lawrence, and "a 'frank' woman novelist," probably Norah C. James, whose Sleeveless Errand was banned a few days after the cartoon appeared. Jix's operation is watched from the clouds by the guardian angels of nineteenth-century British fiction: Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
In matters of censorship, Joynson-Hicks was a man of action, but he was also a man of words. In he put his case in a pamphlet Do We Need a Censor? Eliot's firm, Faber and Faber, in the Criterion Miscellany. Answering the charge that he had tried to "establish a dictatorship in the realm of literature and morals," Joynson-Hicks argued that public opinion demanded the enforcement of laws against indecency. Forster, this piece was preceded in the Faber series by D. Lawrence's famous essay "Pornography and Obscenity," which attacked "the grey Guardian of British Morals" and his subservience to public opinion.
First, it disabuses us of the misleading notion that censors are necessarily unthinking philistines; whatever one thinks of Joynson-Hicks's arguments, he was able to mount a defense of his position, and Eliot's firm was prepared to publish it. Second, there was clearly a dialogue between censor and censored in the modernist period. The Evening Standard cartoon draws attention to this dialogue in its depiction of Lawrence, the only author not accompanied by a literary inspiration, arguing vociferously with the censorious figure at the gate. This book shows that in the years between the outbreak of the Great War in and the appearance of Vile Bodies in , the development of literary modernism was shaped in significant ways by an ongoing dialogue with a culture of censorship.
Situating certain modern works in the context of censorship, I suggest that important aspects of modernism may be appreciated fully only when the extent of its engagement with this culture is recognized. It is my contention that, especially in their responses to contemporary sexual discourse, such novelists as Lawrence, Joyce, and Woolf anticipated and subverted the moral, political, and aesthetic premises on which the culture of censorship was operating. In the introduction I set the stage for my study of modernism with a Figure 1.
Stephen," in The Sink of Solitude London: Centre for the Study of Cartoons 8t Caricatures, University of Kent Preface xi discussion of the Oscar Wilde scandal of , a case that illustrates many features of the literary landscape explored in the rest of the book. Focusing in the four chapters that follow on the trials of Lawrence's The Rainbow , Joyce's Ulysses , and Hall's The Well of Loneliness , and on the suppression of Lawrence's last novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover , I argue that modern authors often dramatized issues of sexuality, literary expression, and censorship that surfaced in contemporary responses to their work.
In this way, modern novelists exploited what I call the "theater of censorship"—the social space in which texts and authors became subject to public censure and legal action—so that the culture of censorship itself was implicitly put on trial. My concern with the ways in which acts of censorship shaped modernist texts written in the years to has dictated certain inclusions and exclusions.
The later trials of Ulysses , and Lady Chatterley's Lover , fall outside these historical parameters; they are discussed when relevant, but they are not essential components of my narrative. Similarly, while the suppression of Norah James's Sleeveless Errand in created some public interest, this novel did not bear on the evolution of modernism in the way that The Well of Loneliness did, and so does not warrant the kind of attention I give to Hall's book.
The same principles, however, demand substantial treatment of Virginia Woolf. Woolf attended the Hall trial in November , and while none of her works attracted the attention of official censors, her art was informed by censorship in crucial ways. Most important, her fictional biography of Vita Sackville-West, Orlando, published at the time of the Well of Loneliness scandal, dramatizes sexual issues that preoccupied Hall's censors. Reading Orlando in the light of Woolf's response to the Hall controversy, I explore these connections in the final chapter.
Attacks on modernism have not ceased, though the accusations of more recent years are somewhat different from those heard in the modernist period itself. Condemned by their contemporaries in courts of law, certain modernists are now considered by some critics as guilty of reinscribing reactionary notions of gender and sexuality.
No doubt such views are sharpened by previous claims that Joyce and Lawrence, for example, expressed sexual themes more freely than an earlier censorious culture tolerated. Lingering misgivings about the influence these writers have in contemporary culture highlight the way in which our reading of modernism continues to be conditioned by the theater of censorship. It is part of my defense of modernism that the relation of modern aesthetics to public discourse is more complicated than some antimodernist readers allow. In this book I argue that rather than testifying to the presence of unacceptable moral and political positions, the objections of latter-day as well as earlier readers often register the strange, disorienting effects of artistic innovation.
We have not left the theater of censorship; on the contrary, it is still very much with us. While writing this book I have benefited from the advice and encouragement of many friends and teachers, who have guided me in my attempts to piece together the various components of my narrative and have helped me to appreciate its implications for literary modernism in particular and modern culture in xii Preface general. From beginning to end I have had the very great fortune of being able to turn to James Longenbach, who kept me on course when I began to stray and enabled me to follow paths I had not known were there.
Early and later versions of each chapter profited immensely from the invaluable commentaries of Bette London, Daniel Albright, and Stewart Weaver. I am grateful to Philip Landon, Ralph Locke, and John Paul Riquelme for comments on different aspects of the work, and to Maria DiBattista for helping me to identify the "'frank' woman novelist" in the Low cartoon.
The role of general reader has been played admirably by my parents, David and Margaret Parkes, whose interest in the project as it evolved constantly reminded me of the significant place such readers occupy in the audience to which the book is addressed. I would also like to thank my editor at Oxford University Press, Elizabeth Maguire, and her assistant, Elda Rotor, for steering me through the final stages. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in enabled me to make considerable headway in this project; research time at the University of Georgia allowed me to complete it. The unflagging efforts of the interlibrary loan staff at the University of Rochester, the University of Georgia, and Trinity University, San Antonio, have helped me to seek out countless reviews and essays from obscure sources.
I am indebted to my research assistants, Lisa Boyd and Lisa Kozlowski, who caught numerous errors before it was too late. Above all, I want to record my largest debt, to my wife, Kristin Boudreau, without whom nothing would have been possible.
Virginia Woolf, Modern novels Joyce , holograph notebook, n. This page intentionally left blank Contents Introduction: The Trials of Modernism, 3 1. The Rainbow, 44 2. Obscenity and Nonreproductive Sexuality: Bloom on Trial, 94 Freedom and Transformation in "Penelope," 3. Reception and Trial, The Well of Loneliness: Lesbianism in Fiction and History, Orlando: Lesbianism in Fictional History, Coda: Lawrence's novel The Rainbow, and in so doing made it virtually impossible for Lawrence to publish fiction in Britain until the Great War ended in This novel remained banned in the United States until It was also banned in Britain, where the censorship of "obscene" modern literature reached its wellknown climax in with the trial of Radclyffe Hall's polemical lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness, and the suppression of Lawrence's last novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover.
These events were not the only instances of censorship in the early twentieth century. Censorship was common in Britain during the Great War, when the Defence of the Realm Act was used to suppress anything that deviated from the views presented in wartime propaganda. But censorship plagued modern authors before and after the war as well.
The entire careers of Lawrence and Joyce evolved in the context of censorship. From Joyce's early skirmishes over the publication of Dubliners to the appearance of Ulysses , and from the efforts of the British libraries to prevent circulation of Lawrence's Sons and Lovers to the seizure of his paintings , both writers were so beset by the pressure of censorship that they could rarely ignore it.
The same was true for some authors whose works were not subject to legal proceedings. Forster never published his homosexual romance, Maurice , because he was certain it would be suppressed; like a number of Forster's stories dealing with homosexual love, Maurice only appeared posthumously. What was the perceived connection between modernism and obscenity that caused the trials to take place? The topic most clearly at stake in modern obscenity 3 4 Introduction trials was the representation of sex and sexuality in published fiction. Explicitly or implicitly, judges and lawyers often invoked the so-called Hicklin rule, established in Britain in , which defined as obscene works tending "to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall"; it was usually sexual immorality that the courts had in mind.
In this sense, the decisions of U. Such a view of the Lady Chatterley trials is quite commonplace, and it has been perpetuated by many people directly involved in the trials. During the welldocumented trial at the Old Bailey in London, dozens of witnesses testified to the literary merit of Lawrence's novel and urged the court to reject the puritanical morality that had produced the philistine verdicts of the past, so that a work of art could be recognized for what it was. When Sir Chartres Biron banned The Well of Loneliness in , for instance, he pronounced literary merit irrelevant to the question of obscenity.
The most splendidly painted picture in the universe might be obscene. Following this line of reasoning, several observers have remarked on the ironic frequency with which pre censorship created unprecedented publicity for both offender and offense, publicity that reversed the results censorship was supposed to produce. The trial of The Well of Loneliness, for example, has often been described as generating a previously nonexistent curiosity about lesbianism that virtually installed the novel as a lesbian bible for the next forty years.
In so doing, we have neglected to ask how accurately such a view represents the early-twentieth-century trials of modernism, or how useful it is for constructing a narrative about those events. It is undeniable that the trials of The Rainbow, Ulysses, and The Well of Loneliness created wide publicity both for the texts themselves and for the various forms of pornography they were taken to represent.
Yet it is by no means clear that this effect was counterproductive in the ways that opponents of censorship have sometimes assumed. It is also unclear whether, in their apparent haste to stamp out whatever they considered immoral, the judges and The Trials of Modernism 5 lawyers who participated in the trials were utterly oblivious to artistic considerations. Indeed, a glance at the Hall trial suggests quite the opposite. When Judge Biron pronounced literary merit irrelevant to a ruling on obscenity, he was responding to an attempt by the defense to use its array of learned witnesses to argue that the merits of Hall's novel eliminated the possibility of obscenity.
With this end in view, the counsel for the defense began his crossexamination of the first witness, Desmond MacCarthy, by asking him whether he considered The Well obscene. It was at this juncture that Biron intervened to declare that only he could decide this question. In fact, the Hall trial, like other obscenity trials, betrayed a marked concern for issues of literary interpretation, which bore, quite inevitably, on matters of legal reasoning.
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Moreover, this concern was inextricable from the matter explicitly at hand: Paradoxically, Judge Biron affirmed the relevance of aesthetic issues in the very act of denying it. The intersection of aesthetic questions with the moral and political concerns informing legal discourse was a salient feature of censorship trials in the early twentieth century.
In prosecuting The Rainbow, Ulysses, and The Well, the authorities produced them as public spectacles, visible sites for staging debates about morality, politics, art, and the relations among those categories. Igniting controversy about the representation of sex and sexuality—controversy that raged in the popular press as well as in courts of law—these texts ultimately served as pretexts for wider arguments about the moral, social responsibilities of the artist and the interpretative prerogatives of the critic.
The scandalized reception of these works inevitably raised fundamental questions about the relation between the social and the aesthetic components of literary interpretation: In what way is literary meaning separable from matters of form and style? How is an aesthetic response to literature different from a moral or a political response? These questions have been taken up by Dominick LaCapra and Hans Robert Jauss in their readings of the trial of Madame Bovary, an important precursor in the history of censorship and Anglo-American modernism.
LaCapra argues that Flaubert's novel was prosecuted unsuccessfully, it turned out not only because the behavior of its heroine transgressed the church and family morality of nineteenth-century France, but also because the new formal structures of free indirect discourse and impersonal narration denied the possibility of a stable narrative position from which the heroine could be judged.
In these ways, LaCapra urges, Madame Bovary was "ideologically criminal," for it questioned the moral and structural premises on which the trial was founded. In LaCapra's account, the threat posed by Madame Bovary to legally sanctioned moral and political positions was exaggerated by its place in the history of the French novel. Poised on the threshold between conventional realism and modernism, this work could not be dismissed as an experimental aberration; unlike Flaubert's last work, Bouvard et Pecuchet , Madame Bovary easily insinuated itself into a hitherto familiar genre.
Comparing Madame Bovary with another novel published in 6 Introduction , Ernest Feydeau's best-seller Fanny, Jauss contends that the two works elicited different responses because they employed different formal structures. Both works rejected romanticism, and they shared a similar content, but whereas Madame Bovary conveyed that content by the unfamiliar method of impersonal narration, Fanny offered it "in the inviting tone of a confessional novel. First, there is evidence that the prosecution of Flaubert's novel, and the suppression of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mai later the same year, galvanized the British Parliament into passing Lord Campbell's Obscene Publications Act , under which Lawrence, Hall, and others were censored in the twentieth century.
This association was strongly reinforced in the early nineteenth century, when the American authorities banned the importation of obscene pictures; like the British authorities, who followed suit in , Americans regarded Paris as the major source of artistic contamination. Recounting the woes of Henry Vizetelly, Edward de Grazia suggests that the English taboo on literary discussions of sex was "an inflamed aspect of English Francophobia.
French literature continued to be regarded as the yardstick, if not the source, of literary pollution in the early twentieth century; Zola in particular was often cited as its most pernicious exemplar. As we shall see, attention was diverted from France by the Great War, during which Germany was naturally seen as the fount of Continental depravity. When the war ended, however, France resumed its place in Anglo-American eyes as the primary site of cultural degeneracy. Moreover, the perceived connection between France, obscenity, and the avant-garde was crucial in determining public responses to the most scandalous figure of late-nineteenth-century British literature: Like Flaubert, Wilde stood on the threshold between nineteenth-century literary conventions and modernism; he was experimental, yet his innovations were intelligible only in relation to traditional notions of form and style.
The most celebrated aspect of the Wilde controversy was his imprisonment in for committing seven acts of "gross indecency" with other men, but this most spectacular of literary trials also illustrates many features of the obscenity trials that took place in the first decades of the next century. Since the sexual aspect of the Wilde scandal was deeply intertwined with his aesthetic practice, his trials helped to establish the terms within which transgressive works of literature were read in Britain, and in the United States, in the early twentieth century.
The spectacular nature The Trials of Modernism 7 of Wilde's trials is especially significant here. Writing at the moment when the nineteenth century was yielding to the modern era, and when sexuality or, to be more specific, homosexuality was first being defined as a mode of "being," Wilde occupied a highly visible crossroads in art and in sexual politics. Wilde is still read in these terms: Thus, in the context of the late twentieth as in the context of the late nineteenth century, Wilde is a useful test case for the relation of avant-garde art to radical sexual politics, illustrating quite graphically the very tangible consequences that attend on certain aesthetic procedures in particular places at particular times.
It is with Wilde that the history of Anglo-American modernism and censorship comes into being. The best place to start tracing that history is not but , when Wilde became a focal point for the influence of French culture, and the aura of sexual deviance with which it was endowed by the Victorian imagination, on British literature.
Wilde was already associated in many minds with the Decadent circles of fin-de-siecle Paris, but in his French connection became abundantly clear when the British authorities invoked the ban on dramatic representations of biblical characters and refused to license his French play, Salome. In the late nineteenth century the Salome theme had fascinated a number of French artists, including Baudelaire, Mallarme, Flaubert, and Gustave Moreau.
Emphasizing the incestuous passions of Herod for his stepdaughter, and those of Herodias for John the Baptist, Pigott concluded: Imagine the average British public's reception of it. Wilde pointed out that other biblical dramas were prohibited, including Racine's dramatic poem Athalie, Saint-Saens's opera Samson et Dalila, and Massenet's Herodiade, which premiered in But it may have been no accident that, like Wilde's play, these works were French as well. Taking place in the last year of the Great War, this trial was not explicitly concerned with Decadence but with sexual immorality and deviance.
A brief 8 Introduction synopsis of the trial, however, will make the connection between them manifestly clear. The case came about when Allan, an actress in a production of Wilde's Salome, issued a libel suit against a member of Parliament, Noel Pemberton Billing, who had attacked the play in his magazine, Vigilante. As in the Maud Allan trial, the central issue was the crime for which Wilde went to prison.
Samuel Hynes notes that in debating not only Douglas's relationship with Wilde but also Ross's deviance, the trial marked "the beginning of a wartime renewal of feelings that had surrounded the Wilde case in the Nineties—hatred and fear of sexual deviance, and a felt need to suppress the art and ideas about art that were associated with it. The Maud Allan trial suggested that the censorious and homophobic feelings exposed by the Ross—Douglas trial continued unabated throughout the war, a perpetual reminder that history had transformed Wilde into something both more and less than the actual person Oscar Wilde: Strictly speaking, those hearings were not censorship trials: Wilde was condemned for "acts of gross indecency" under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act known as the Labouchere Amendment.
Literary matters, however, were never far removed from the central concern of this case; in court and in newspaper reports of the trials, the sexual was repeatedly linked to the textual. A text was the occasion of the first trial. On 28 February , Wilde had arrived at the Albemarle club in London to find a card left, ten days earlier, by the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Lord Alfred Douglas. On the back of the card Queensberry had written: Since the defense, led by Edward Carson, had to prove not that Wilde had committed specific acts but that he had "posfed] as a sodomite," Wilde's writings were as relevant as his actions; as a result, courtroom proceedings often focused on literary affairs, which at one point acquired a French flavor.
Clarke and Carson spent consider- The Trials of Modernism 9 able time addressing the aesthetic tendencies adduced, as proof of Queensberry's charge, in the plea of justification. Of particular concern were Wilde's "immoral and obscene" novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , and a magazine entitled The Chameleon, in which Wilde had published "certain immoral maxims. When the novel first appeared in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in July , reviews linked it with the Cleveland Street affair of —, which had led to the first widely publicized prosecution under the Labouchere Amendment.
Yet it was precisely this vagueness and indeterminacy that troubled Wilde's contemporaries. Dorian Gray did not divulge specific sexual acts, but it posed as if it did. Obscurity implied obscenity, a suspicion revived by the appearance in November of Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure, or "Jude the Obscene," as it was called in the Pall Mall Gazette. Queensberry's attorney, Carson, was less concerned with Wilde's actual contribution to the magazine than with "The Priest and the Acolyte," a "blasphemous" story published anonymously but probably written by the editor, J.
Carson implied that this influence had contributed to an atmosphere in which it was possible for another man in this case an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford to write "The Priest and the Acolyte. By 5 April, when Clarke withdrew from the prosecution, sufficient evidence of this kind had accumulated to justify Queensberry's words, "For Oscar Wilde Posing as a Somdomite.
It took two further trials to convict him: But the third trial ended at the Old Bailey with Wilde's conviction and imprisonment for two years with hard labor. Literary matters continued to feature in the second and third trials, but their status underwent some significant changes. Seeing at the end of the first trial that Wilde was in danger, Sir Edward Clarke had asked that the verdict of "Not Guilty" be limited to reference "to that part of the particulars connected with the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray and the publication of The Chameleon" TOW, p.
In effect, Clarke had been trying to use an admission of literary obscenity to protect Wilde from the more damaging allegations made in Queensberry's plea of justification. But when, following the refusal of this request, Queensberry was acquitted and Wilde arrested, Clarke's tactics altered. At the second trial it was in Wilde's interest to play down literary affairs because they had been used in the first trial to show that he displayed certain tendencies.
In his opening speech for the defense, Clarke argued that Carson should not have cross-examined Wilde at the previous hearing on works written by others. Clarke then tried to divorce the present case from the disturbing atmosphere of literature by telling the jury: Gill's first question was about The Chameleon and, pointing out that the magazine had printed the second poem immediately before "The Priest and the Acolyte," he read out passages from Douglas's contributions, "In Praise of Shame" and "Two Loves.
Called on to explain Douglas's phrase, "the Love that dare not speak its name," Wilde famously described it as "beautiful," "fine," and "the noblest form of affection. Enthusiastic applause greeted this speech, which it is sometimes speculated may have contributed to the jury's inability to agree on a verdict. It may also explain why the prosecution gave less prominence to literary questions in the third trial; discussion of Wilde's writings now tended to be limited to the letters for which he had been blackmailed by Alfred Wood, one of the young men with whom he was found guilty of committing acts of gross indecency.
It was not just in court that Wilde's crime was related to his status as a man of letters; journalistic accounts of the trials insistently linked his sexual offenses to Decadence and literary obscenity. The Daily Telegraph interpreted the verdict of the third trial as a stern rebuke to "some of the artistic tendencies of the time": Young men at the universities, silly women who lend an ear to any chatter which is petulant and vivacious, novelists who have sought to imitate the style of paradox and unreality, poets who have lisped the language of nerveless and effeminate libertinage—these are the persons who should ponder with themselves the doctrine and the career of the man who has now to undergo the righteous sentence of the law.
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As Ed Cohen has shown, one of the most startling aspects of such accounts is that they never specify the sexual offenses for which Wilde was tried and convicted: In its references to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Queensberry's plea of justification made it clear that the Wilde scandal concerned not only specific sexual practices but also obscene aesthetic tendencies. At the end of the first trial, Sir Edward Clarke had tried to use charges of literary obscenity to protect Wilde; press accounts sheltered their readers by using references to literary obscenity to censor the unspeakable crimes for which Wilde was convicted.
Indirectly, Wilde's conviction brought about the censorship of his plays as well. The public uproar in London after the collapse of the second trial forced Earnest to close down altogether on 8 May. Thus, the life span of Wilde's most famous play was virtually identical to that of the scandal: In a sense it was fitting that the fate of this particular play should have been linked so closely to that of its author, since Wilde himself broke down the barriers between art and life.
Wilde told Andre Gide that he had put his talent into his works but had saved his genius for his life, implying that we should judge his life as his supreme artistic achievement, his greatest theatrical performance. If art and life were now indistinguishable, as Wilde suggested they were, it is not easy to tell how far his trials expressed exclusively moral outrage, and how far that outrage articulated aesthetic objections.
Indeed, the decorum that Wilde violated is best understood not only in moral and social but also in aesthetic terms. The very notion of decorum implies a certain aesthetic sensibility, and part of 12 Introduction the problem with Wilde was that his innovations offended it.
As contemporary laments about his "foolish ostentation" and "insufferable posturing" suggest, Wilde's trials dramatized this tension between the social and the aesthetic realms. Such responses underlined another point as well: Wilde exemplified how one kind of trial an artistic experiment, for instance may intersect with, and even provoke, a trial in what might have been considered an entirely different realm of human affairs the realm, in this case, of criminal law. While Wilde's trials expressed a tension between the social and the aesthetic, that tension was essential to Wilde's art.
By treating experiments in art and experiments in social life as synonymous, Wilde fostered the conditions that made his trials possible. It was a short step from living life as a drama to having to defend that life in a court of law, and in this sense a jury was just one of the many audiences Wilde sought out during his lifelong performance before British society. By a cruel irony, Wilde was, as the National Observer observed, an obscene impostor. As Regenia Gagnier has argued, The Importance of Being Earnest may have appealed particularly strongly to London audiences in because the play's characters looked and behaved just like themselves.
Wilde provided upper- and upper-middle-class spectators with mirrors that allowed them to gaze upon, and consume, their own immaculately attired image. Auden noted, though, Wilde's trials illuminated Earnest in ways that perhaps escaped its first audiences. After the revelations of the trials, Auden lamented, it was difficult to ignore Wilde's homosexuality when reading the play: While it is quite plausible to interpret Bunburying differently, Auden's reading has irresistible implications for Wilde's audience.
In this sense, what Wilde says to Douglas in De Profundis might apply to the audience of Earnest, or to any of Wilde's audiences: To give an audience characters who closely resemble themselves is not only to disturb the boundaries between art and life, between stage and auditorium; it is also to push to the limits their unconsciousness of the ways in which their mirror images conform to, or transgress, accepted codes of behavior. If Bunburying meant what Auden thought, to what extent did Wilde's contemporaries realize it?
What Wilde called the vague and indeterminate atmosphere of moral corruption in The Picture of Dorian Gray was taken in court as evidence of immoral tendencies associated with certain unspecifiable acts; the public uproar that forced the closure of Earnest, and the even hastier The Trials of Modernism 13 withdrawal of the now ironically titled An Ideal Husband, suggested that these works were equally capable of inducing such uneasiness.
By generating a relationship of theatrical exchange, Wilde seems to accuse his audience of complicity in the very crime for which he was convicted. Read in this way, Earnest undercuts the authority of Wilde's judges, charging them, in effect, with hypocrisy. Wilde's life and work lend themselves to such interpretation because it was at the end of the nineteenth century that homosexuality, and the entire concept of sexuality as the index of one's being, was first defined in scientific terms. In Wilde this conceptual transition seems directly related to new uncertainties about the function of art.
In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault observes that the birth of homosexuality as a psychological, psychiatric, and medical category occurred as late as , when Carl Westphal published his Archiv fiir Neurologic. A major conceptual shift began, writes Foucault, when homosexuality "was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.
The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology. Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was everywhere present in him: It was consubstantial with him, less as a habitual sin than as a singular nature.
Most crucially, Wilde's example highlights the artistic dimension of that shaping process; the sensibility that Foucault calls sexual is also aesthetic. In fact, when in a letter of Wilde pleaded his case with the Home Secretary, he pointed out that Nordau had devoted several pages to diagnosing him in these terms. The close fit was not lost on Nordau, who attacked Wilde and other artists, including Wagner and Baudelaire, with a vigor that even Lombroso thought excessive.
Wilde's inversion was, in Foucault's words, "written immodestly on his face and body because it was a secret that always gave itself away. In Wilde, body and text formed one seamless surface of disease and perversion that demanded, Nordau thought, a new, scientific, critical attention. Wilde was symptomatic of, and even exacerbated, a late-nineteenth-century crisis of masculinity.
Treating the social world as a stage and identity as a mask, Wilde located gender and sexuality on a theatrical terrain which, he implied, was always unstable. If, with the advent of homosexuality as a psychological, psychiatric, medical category, his inner nature was "written immodestly on his face and body," was it not possible to rewrite that nature simply by redressing it? Nordau observed in Wilde an acute susceptibility to hysteria, a condition that characterized the alarming instability of fin-de-siecle masculinity and femininity because, always revealing itself in external symptoms, it threatened to reduce identity to something theatrical.
Hysteria suggested that a change of costume or of expression might be enough to effect sexual transformation. To Nordau, this menace was summed up in Wilde, a writer prone to a "hysterical craving to be noticed, to occupy the attention of the world with himself, to get talked about. But Nordau did not observe hysteria "exclusively, or even preponderantly, among females. Jauss, as I have noted, writes that "a new aesthetic form. The challenge to nineteenth-century masculinity signaled by the new Wildean "aesthetics of existence" implied a moral or ethical crisis. The nature of this crisis is suggested by another work of fin-de-siecle sexology, and a victim of censorship, Havelock Ellis's Sexual Inversion Wilde, the master of what The Trials of Modernism 15 Lombroso described as "a continuous flow of epigrams, plays upon words, and assonances—puns, in short," not only threw British masculinity into doubt; he rendered utterly unreliable the very language in which gender and sexuality were defined, and with it the moral categories that masculinity was supposed to guarantee.
The deceptiveness of Wilde's smooth tongue lay in its manifest differences from the fragmented speech usually associated with hysteria, for the glossy surfaces of his art concealed a well of potentially subversive effects or, in Lombroso's terms, an underlying "insanity. Yoking together apparently incongruous contexts, their "duplicitous operations," as Christopher Craft puts it, open in language "a counterhegemonic or revisionary space, a plastic site in which received meanings.
In The Importance of Being Earnest, however, this term is cut loose from its cultural moorings and becomes a floating signifier, a word that attaches itself by pure chance to a character signally lacking the attributes it was meant to imply. By the last scene, when Jack Worthing discovers from the army lists that his name "naturally is Ernest," the play has already made it impossible for us to believe that this coincidence reflects a deep organic truth about his moral fiber.
Rather, the effortlessness with which Jack moves from this discovery to his closing declaration, "I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest" CW, p. The Importance of Being Earnest suggests that the harder we try to anchor "earnestness" in received categories, the more slippery and elusive it becomes. Released into a field of linguistic play, Wilde's "earnestness" resists such cultural determination. Signifying a verbal facility motivated only by language, "earnestness" is emptied of the moral integrity, the sincerity, that British culture had invested in it.
At the same time, Wilde's "earnestness" strangely combines the word's nineteenth-century aura of "manliness" with sexual deviance. Craft notes that "earnest" plays on "Urning," a term of "gay self-reference" coined in the s and exploited by the Uranian poet John Gambril Nicholson in Love in Earnest, a book of homosexual verse published in Diverting active male desire from its proper destination, gay desire was nonreproductive. In Wilde's hands, "earnestness" becomes a figure of speech that enables effects at odds with the cultural meanings it was supposed to imply.
Locating "earnestness" at the level of verbal play, Wilde turns the term against the late Victorian discourses of production and reproduction with 16 Introduction which it was commonly associated. The only form of production in Wilde's drama is linguistic: As The Importance of Being Earnest makes very clear, precious little energy is required of Wilde's characters during their wordplay; quite spontaneously they produce sentences as perfect as if they had labored over them all night, an effect that "astonished" W. Yeats when he encountered it in Wilde's own conversation.
As Lionel Trilling has observed, nineteenth-century Britain regarded the work ethic as a guarantee of a gentleman's sincerity, and to realize its power we only need recall how "incomprehensible" ill-directed labor seems to Joseph Conrad's Marlow in Heart of Darkness In contrast to the visible evidence of wasted energy, Kurtz merits hearty approval in Marlow's eyes because he is a good capitalist, and Marlow's own commitment to work apparently ensures the authenticity of his search for meaning and truth. Recruiting their female counterparts into their verbal swordplay, Wilde's male characters render the masculine space reserved for work indistinguishable from the world of leisure and a supposedly feminine domesticity.
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The world of work is not only demasculinized, it is rendered unproductive and nonreproductive: When Wilde pronounced work the curse of the drinking classes, he not only exposed the class system underlying the British work ethic but turned the idea of work into one more occasion for intellectual posturing and witty repartee. For Marlow, wasted labor is always cause for concern, but for Wilde work itself is a waste—a waste of time that could be spent perhaps less profitably, but certainly more pleasurably, in pursuit of leisure. Hans-Georg Gadamer has defined the "to-and-fro movement" of play as the event of art proper.
A pun has a to-and-fro movement and has no particular end in sight, but it does not transcend the context or contexts from which it emerges. In The Importance of Being Earnest, "earnest" leads a double life: While "earnestness" flickers between these two poles, however, its power largely derives from the fact that Wilde is undermining the word's cultural The Trials of Modernism 17 inheritance. The reduction of "earnestness" into something trivial and its recruitment as a means of subversion only make sense in relation to its nineteenth-century function as the sign of a British cultural ideal; it is from conflict with this ideal that "earnestness" takes its force in Wilde's play.
Wilde's wordplay points to possibilities beyond the meanings of inherited culture by working against and within that culture. Wilde's wordplay is representative of his aesthetic practice as a whole, and as such it indicates the broad scope of his art's implications. While the subversiveness of his art is incomprehensible except in relation to old certainties, it is through playful repetition that Wilde erodes those certainties; by punning on "earnest," he brings into being a new sexual aesthetics. Translating aesthetic procedures into social practice, Wilde perfectly realizes the potential impact of experimental art on supposedly fixed cultural forms.
Wildean theatricality suggests that by locating artistic performance in social space, it is possible to surmount and exceed the limits imposed in art and in politics by censorious public discourses. It is in this sense that Wilde, hovering ominously in the background throughout the censorship trials of the early twentieth century, helps to define what I am calling the theater of censorship.
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Suggesting not only drama but also a fixed place and social institution, the theater is a useful image for describing the social space in which texts and authors become the objects of official censorship. Indicating a realm that is at once social and aesthetic, the theater denotes the scene of literary encounters with the moral and political discourses of public life.
Evoking the often constraining yet sometimes enabling effects of social and aesthetic conventions, the theater functions as a locus of tension and conflict. My use of the theater is analogous to the figure David Marshall has traced through eighteenth- and nineteenth-century explorations of the relations between identity and society. In Marshall's account, the theater is a site for representing, creating, and responding to uncertainties about selfhood and social knowledge in diverse texts.
Arguing, however, that "theater" implies a "circumspection" resisted by "theatricality," Litvak oddly implies that "theater" has less value as a critical term. As Wilde so powerfully demonstrates, theatricality may be most arresting, and disconcerting, when the coercive effects of form and convention, of theater, are most keenly felt. It is at the point where the experimental impulses of modern literature intersect with form and convention that its disruptive and transformative potential emerges most visibly and dramatically. Wilde's case also draws attention to a point at the heart of the transformative impact of censored experimental works in the early twentieth century: Raising such questions at the end of the nineteenth century, Wilde set the stage for debates about the construction of subjectivity and 18 Introduction sexuality that would surround modernism not only in the first decades but also in the last decades of the twentieth century.
His aesthetic practice indicates possibilities for cultural transformation startlingly analogous to those explored by Judith Butler in her recent challenge to the terms in which these debates have been conducted in contemporary gay and feminist theory. In many ways, Wilde embodies the performative self as defined by Butler: In this way, Butler suggests the possibility of rescuing identity from the essentializing, psychological models to which texts and authors were subjected by censorious public discourses at the turn of the century, and in which, she argues, they have been reinterred by certain trends in feminism.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The idea of subversive repetition is crucial to theatricality because while, like any performance, the performance of gender and sexual identity rehearses a script, the script must be interpreted. Such a model of theatricality is highly suggestive for a reading of Lawrence, Joyce, Hall, and Woolf that situates their texts in the theater of censorship— that situates them, that is, "within the confines of already existing directives" embodied in historically determined public discourses of gender, sexuality, and the body.
Performing the cultural scripts for gender and sexual identity, such works as The Rainbow, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ulysses, and Virginia Woolf's Orlando which, though not censored, appeared provocatively at the time of the Hall trial intimate different ways of interpreting those scripts, and ultimately of rewriting the culture whose directives they express. Read in the context of Anglo-American culture during and after the Great War, the formal and stylistic innovations of these works may be seen to engage such issues as hysteria and sexual deviance in ways that challenge dominant cultural paradigms.
Experimental modernism follows Wilde in subverting socially sane- The Trials of Modernism 19 tioned concepts of sexuality and gender and an entire system of reproductive discourses, and in suggesting what had been unspeakable, unrepresentable, unthinkable, or obscene. Most strikingly, modernism insinuates possibilities for expressing deviant and nonreproductive configurations of gender and sexuality, possibilities that coalesce most obscenely in lesbianism.
The obscenity of lesbianism was sufficient to warrant its exclusion from the Labouchere Amendment: But while Hall's direct attempt to terminate the lesbian's enforced silence and invisibility resulted only in an unsuccessful court battle, Woolf's Orlando shows how the theatrical strategies of an experimental modern narrative can imply the possibility of illicit lesbian desires and quietly undermine censorious legal and sexological discourses. Where public discourses block the route, modernism takes another path, which, though indirect and sometimes barely perceptible, disturbs discursive conventions more radically than a more direct or polemical approach.
Locating obscenity at the level of formal and stylistic experiment, modernism dramatizes crucial questions relating to literary censorship, suggesting subversions and transformations that even Wilde might not have imagined. Read in this way, modernism demands a transformation of the critical narratives in which it has been inscribed, or incarcerated, by certain members of our own postmodern culture. For in a sense, modernism is still on trial. It has become salutary in some quarters to divide modernist authors along gender lines, in terms of "sex war," as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have done in No Man's Land.
Such a view does not represent the entire panoply of current readings of modernism: For instance, Alex Zwerdling's important book Virginia Woolf and the Real World has made it less easy than it once was to accept an ahistorical portrait of Woolf as the "matron saint of contemporary feminism. It is precisely this kind of attention that I want to give to Joyce, Lawrence, and a work of Woolf's that receives surprisingly little attention in Zwerdling's account, Orlando. While such a project means invoking the timehonored concept of modernist ambiguity, this ambiguity is always functional: Experimental modernism, that is, enables an attempt like mine to challenge and rewrite certain critical narratives about the sexual politics of modernism.
In fact, I see this attempt as just one of 20 Introduction the many ways in which modernist texts, generating theatrical relationships with their audiences, encourage their readers to reactivate some crucial questions of critical interpretation, and so to intervene in cultural history. For modernism challenges us to put our own readerly responsibilities to the test. Modernism puts us on trial.
Modernism and the Theater of Censorship
This hearing gave the first official sanction to the view that Lawrence's writings allowed unchecked expression of unhealthy sexual themes, which posed a threat to public morals and public decency. In the language of the Hicklin rule, The Rainbow tended to "deprave and corrupt. To him personally it was a matter for the most profound regret that it should have been necessary for the protection of public morals and public decency in literary productions to bring this disgusting, detestable and pernicious work under the notice of the Court.
Although there might not be an obscene word to be found in the book, it was in fact a mass of obscenity of thought, idea, and action, wrapped up in language which in some quarters might be considered artistic and intellectual. It was difficult to understand how Messrs Methuen could have lent their great name to the publication of this bawdy volume. As I noted earlier, Sons and Lovers had been banned from English public libraries, and, since Methuen had already rejected two previous versions of The Rainbow, Lawrence was aware that this novel might prove controversial as well.
In August Methuen claimed that the manuscript, then called The Wedding Ring, 21 22 "All goals become graves" "could not be published in its then form"; as Mark Kinkead-Weekes has observed, the publisher seemed to imply obscenity. Lawrence's response to such objections indicated little reluctance to provoke his contemporaries: I have cut out, as I said I would, all the phrases objected to. The passages and paragraphs marked I cannot alter. There is nothing offensive in them, beyond the very substance they contain, and that is no more offensive than that of all the rest of the novel.
The libraries won't object to the book any less, or approve of it any more, if these passages are cut out. And I cant cut them out, because they are living parts of an organic whole. Those who object, will object to the book altogether. These bits won't affect them particularly. Refusing to comply fully with Methuen's wishes, Lawrence implied that if any part of the novel offended its readers, it was crucial to his artistic intentions; he intimated that for the novel to succeed as an organic whole it had to transgress certain moral codes.
As is clear in his letters of to , Lawrence considered his attempt to refashion the English novel inseparable from an attempt to reform English society and the "public morals and public decency" upheld at the trial. This essay is both a work of literary criticism and a philosophical inquiry into the nature of being. Laws, Lawrence argues, deal only with existing conditions, the symptoms of the sickness of modern life, rather than with the sickness itself.
Once a man has submitted to his own law, he should "seek out the law of the female, with which to join himself as a complement. And unlike laws and warfare, which involve striving toward particular fixed goals, this state is a process of "seeking" and "becoming. A philosophy upholding the pursuit of self-realization and consummate marriage as the individual's most pressing responsibility was hardly in tune with the public morality of a nation at war.
Indeed, Lawrence's conception of law was in direct competition with the legal system that enforced wartime morality. The Rainbow, a novel full of images of legality and transgression, suggests this competition in a description of Mr. Harby, the headmaster of St. Philip's School, that links "an abnegation of his personal self" with "an application of a system of laws, for the purpose of achieving a certain calculable result, the imparting of certain knowledge" R, p. Like "A Study of Thomas Hardy," The Rainbow challenges received notions of law in a manner expressing sheer rage at the Great War, at the system of laws it keeps in place, at its attempt to achieve a certain calculable result.
Lawrence later denied that the war had influenced the composition of The Rainbow: I only clarified a little, in revision. Lawrence rewrote the stackyard scene in "First Love," and added the first three chapters which describe the first generation of Brangwens , "The Cathedral," the beach scene in "The Bitterness of Ecstasy," and the lesbian episode in "Shame," which was singled out as particularly offensive at the trial. Lawrence's revisions not only clarified but in crucial ways modified his prewar statement. Binding the novel's exploration of sexuality and self-fulfillment to the destructive theme of warfare, they invited a contemplation on contemporary history that corresponded in many particulars with what Lawrence proposed in the essay on Hardy.
Most important, the revisions implied that the energies devoted to waging the Great War should be directed toward what Lawrence called, in the contemporaneous Twilight in Italy , "the strange, terrible sex-war. On 16 December one month after the trial , he claimed that legal action had been initiated by the National Purity League L2, p.
And in a letter to the publisher Martin Seeker, he implied once again that impiety had been the main cause for complaint: This scene, which occurs in chapter 6 "Anna Victrix" , has blasphemous implications because it imitates, and explicitly alludes to, the biblical scene in which David dances before the Ark 2 Samuel 6: While there is no evidence to support the first of Lawrence's claims, there is as we shall see possible corroboration for the second, and both claims point to an important aspect of the Rainbow scandal that is also related to the war.
Law- 24 "All goals become graves" rence was clearly aware that his novel committed offenses against Christian morality; in wartime Britain, as Kingsley Widmer observes, such offenses were often associated with antipatriotism. Calling in "Hardy" for a two-in-one reconciliation of body and spirit, Lawrence defined blasphemy as a denial either of "marriage in the spirit" or of "marriage in the body" STH, p.
In a series of essays called "The Crown" , Lawrence developed the dualistic philosophy of "Hardy"; "the fight of opposites which is holy" was now explicitly contrasted with "our blasphemy of the war" RDP, p. It is in such highly ritualized scenes as the lesbian episode in "Shame" and Anna's dancing in "Anna Victrix" that the competition between opposed moralities may be felt most keenly.
The theatricality of those scenes requires the audience to respond to Lawrence's assault on conventional expectation. Within its self-consciously theatrical frame, Anna's dancing highlights Lawrence's subversion of socially and biblically sanctioned sexual roles, which wartime readers found so problematic. Ironically, when Lawrence revised the novel he toned down the more obviously blasphemous aspects of this scene, probably because as Charles Ross surmises it was too likely to provoke censorship.
And other revisions, while not always explicitly blasphemous, consistently fueled Lawrence's counter-argument that impiety lay as much in a denial of the body as in a denial of the spirit, and that the Great War was the inevitable outcome of the application of a system of laws that suppressed the body.
The Rainbow emerged from revision as the novel that would be read at the trial as immoral, decadent, and, because it might now be interpreted as a tacit commentary on the war, antiwar. Lawrence's challenge to received wartime views of the relation between law and religion is signaled quite pointedly in the image of the rainbow, which supplies the title and appears at several key moments in the novel.
As a biblical symbol for the Covenant, it suggests a binding agreement, a closure, associated not only with religious but also with legal discourse. Yet in addition to reminding us of the biblical promise of divine justice after the flood, the rainbow suggests openness to future experience. While tacitly acknowledging the power of inherited culture, the image implies the possibility of resisting closure of various kinds: In this sense, Lawrence's novel draws on nineteenth-century uncertainties about the meaning of this image and the divine justice it was taken to represent; as George P.
Landow has argued, the rainbow's status as a continually reappearing natural phenomenon began to threaten its significance as a "divinely instituted covenant-sign. Indeed, the narrative structure of this novel might be read as an elaborate play on the word "process. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform Availability: Nuvision Publications, llc Availability: University Series Author s: Cornell University Library Availability: Tark Classic Fiction Availability: Tutis Digital Pub Availability: Perfection Learning Prebound Availability: Victorian Classic Audiobooks Availability: Audio Book Contractors Availability: Trout Lake Media Availability: Library Edition Author s: Blackstone Audio Inc Availability: Naxos of America Inc.
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