I have been using this space to write about grad school mostly and I haven’t really been talking much about my work. This is, I believe, a fault because one’s research is the defining thing about the grad school — and indeed academic — experience. My friend and colleague Michelle O’Brien’s new academic blog has inspired/reminded me about this. With that, then, I’d like to tell you a little something about my research. Sit back and read about the kind of pornography that will likely not require you to do anything one-handed. Yes, that’s right, it’s the pornography of those nutty repressive-hypothesized Victorians.
First, a bit of background about how I came to be interested in such objectionable material. In West Philadelphia born and raised…er, no. That’s a different story. Sometime in my undergraduate career I discovered a writer called Oscar Wilde. I, like many a young, ignorant undergrad, was first exposed to him via The Importance of Being Earnest. I thought it was the greatest play I’d ever read and I wondered why nobody had ever heard of it, because I was dumb. That particular course ended with me writing a really poor paper about Wilde and how he was brilliant despite being unknown (again, because dumb). I had begun a Wilde fandom that lasts to this day, which is the important thing. Wilde was my introduction into Victorian literature and I had soon read a bunch more of his writing. Confession: I wasn’t at all impressed with his poetry or his early plays. His writing and biography continued to have an imprint on most things that I did scholarly-wise and they still do. Having established an interest in Victorian literature in general, and Wilde in particular, I looked to the other big names but was never really satisfied until I found out about aestheticism and all the really juicy bits from the 1890s.
I’m skipping a whole bunch of largely unimportant details about triple-decker Victorian novels begun but never finished and my failed attempt at linking the posthuman with the aesthetic movement, so just pretend like you’ve read about some of the spectacular failures of my late 20s here. I’m sure to lay them on you at some point, but I don’t want to pall you, my gentle readers.
By this point in the story, I am in grad school at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia and I am taking a class on “The Paris Edition” (code for a dirty book) and on the syllabus is a novel called Teleny, or the Reverse of the Medal. I’d never heard of it, but I see that it is Victorian (1893) and, more importantly, that it is ATTRIBUTED TO OSCAR WILDE?! How could I, the best and smartest fan Mr. Wilde ever had, not have known that he penned a second novel? Well, it turned out not to be so simple as all that, but I’ll get to that in a future post in this series on my research. For now, what is important is that I can point to that moment as the moment when my interest for what would become my PhD research began. Long time readers of Graduable.com might recall that I applied for my PhD with a completely different project in mind. That proposal was written before I had discovered Teleny and its ostensible Wilde connection.
From Teleny my interest in clandestine Victorian publications grew until you get what you see here today, a fellow in the process of figuring out where his research fits within the discourse of the field he has chosen. This is the seriously abridged version of how I came to the research I am currently engaged in. This post will contain multiple parts that cover different aspects of my research. The next post in the series will be a brief introduction to Victorian pornography that promises to be a good time for all, no matter your particular moral sensitivities.