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Henry James and Queer Filiation

Hardened Bachelors of the Edwardian Era

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  • © 2018


  • Reveals a fascinatingly open network of queer filiation in which Henry James occupied a central position
  • Challenges Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s interpretation of 'The Beast in the Jungle', showing that the concealment of homosexual behaviour during the Edwardian era by those vulnerable to persecution was far from universal
  • Explores how class privilege affected the need to conceal male-male relationships in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
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About this book

This study challenges the notion that closeted secrecy was a necessary part of social life for gay men living in the shadow of the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. It reconstructs a surprisingly open network of queer filiation in which Henry James occupied a central place. The lives of its satellite figures — most now forgotten or unknown — offer even more suggestive evidence of some of the countervailing forms of social practice that could survive even in that hostile era. If these men enjoyed such exemption largely because of the prerogatives of class privilege, their relative freedom was nevertheless a visible rebuke to the reductive stereotypes of homosexuality that circulated and were reinforced in the culture of the period. This book will be of particular interest to scholars of Henry James and queer studies, readers of late Victorian and modern literature, and those interested in the history and social construction of gender roles.

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Table of contents (13 chapters)


“Anesko traces the transatlantic gravitation of this bohemian set into James’s inner circle at a time when the author had established his literary prowess and was developing his famously baroque late style. … the most exciting insights in Henry James and Queer Filiation are those that connect this history of artists, musicians, and lovers—primarily relayed through letters—to the creation of visual culture, and those that manage also to relate these elements to the themes and style of James’s fiction.” (Elizabeth J. McLean, Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities, Vol. 1 (1), 2020)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA

    Michael Anesko

About the author

Michael Anesko is Professor of English and American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. Besides serving as one of four General Editors of the ongoing Cambridge Edition of The Complete Fiction of Henry James, he is the author of five books, the most recent of which is Generous Mistakes: Incidents of Error in Henry James (2017).

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