Reading Victorian Pornography Now

Pornography is more often referenced than it is read.  When it is read, it proves a challenge to traditional reading habits and interpretive methods, as well as moral standards. Open to the study of Victorian pornography, we nonetheless find it difficult to read some of these works and recover them for analysis. As an inherently transgressive genre, pornography continues to transgress the boundaries of feeling, representation, and morality across the centuries. Scholars have provided some direction for bringing critical awareness to the topic: reading pornography as a history of state censorship; as a resource for literary experimentation; as a political instrument for liberal values; as a history of gender and sexuality; as a history of imperialism and globalization; and as a history of technology. We bring to our readings of Victorian pornographic works like The Story of a Dildoe, TelenyThe Romance of Lust, and Les Onze mille verges queer intersectional perspectives, as well as aesthetic and archetypal analysis. Collectively, we grapple with interpreting and recovering these works for today’s readers and those of the future.


Gender and Power in *The Story of A Dildoe* (1891)

*The Story of A Dildoe* (1891), is an erotic tale in which three girls engage in lesbian sex while using a dildoe. This artifact looks at the oppressive power dynamics between women and men in Victorian England, and how these dynamics relate to the use of the dildoe in the novel.
– D.L.

Reading Dildos and Female Desire in Victorian Porn

Dildos are a device that appear in female same-sex scenes in Victorian porn. But where can we situate them within the era’s discourse of unequal power relations and male-dominated cultural attitudes? This artifact inquires into the interplay of dildos and female gratification within an androcentric nineteenth-century society’s erotic texts.
– Viktoria Cseh

Jung’s *Story of a Dildoe*

What if Carl Jung interpreted Victorian pornography? A Jungian analysis of *The Story of a Dildoe* provides readers with a unique perspective on a text they may otherwise have missed.

*Teleny’s* Gay Spaces

*Teleny,* a novel without a known author, explores homoerotic love and the space it occupies within Paris/London during the 19th century. This artifact explores the significance of these spaces (real and imagined, public and private, safe and dangerous) for queer men.

Queer Bodies in *The Romance of the Violette* (1897)

A comparison of the French novel, *The Romance of the Violette* and its English translation reveals that portions of the original narrative, containing sexually explicit scenes between its lesbian characters, were left out of the English translation. This artifact looks at how these scenes, and their use of food imagery, reveals a more positive representation of queer sexualities.
– D.L.

The Utility of the Unreal

Both *Teleny* and *The Debauched Hospodar* rely on moving away from mimetic realism to advance their beliefs. However, between the two, the intended effect of this strategy is totally opposite.
– Will