Sentences from my BA thesis, now appearing in a seminar paper I will be delivering very soon:
Symonds’ life is not a story about gayness. It’s a story about humanistic study and self-development, about a search for truth, a search for ethics, and a historian’s interest in ferreting out “human documents” and bringing them to light. A modern reader might find no shortage of problems with and limits to Symonds’ philosophy of love. Yet there is something profoundly moving about his belief that his erotic ideal was powerful enough, spiritually-driven enough, pure enough, that Victorian culture, far from considering it a disease, would have to accommodate it, too, as a bearer of “sweetness and light”—even if it proposed to love the most impossible things.
Want to hear more? I will be talking on “Impossible Love and Victorian Values: J.A. Symonds and the Intellectual History of Homosexuality” at 12.15pm on Friday, 2nd November at the Platnauer Room in Brasenose College, Oxford, as part of the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Culture Forum’s seminar series. All are welcome!