Publishers made money by putatively selling new works of Victorian pornography. In this textual economy of reprint, repackage, and reuse, however, a new title did not necessarily mean a new work. Old works became new again with new titles, re-arrangements, and fresh translations. We explore the textual evolutions of Victorian pornographic works like The Romance of Violette, My Secret Life, and Teleny through the processes of translation, abridgement, rewriting, and adaptation. What we discover are works of notable textual instability, both during the period and after, whose evolution is not simply a process of being stripped down to bare sexual content, but rather one of expansion and contraction to negotiate movement across time, place, and audiences.
This artifact is a textual comparison of two distinct versions of *The Romance of Violette* — one version translated into English and the other a French version back-translated into English.
*The Romance of Violette,* written anonymously, details the story of a teenager in a sexual relationship with both a man and a woman. A comparison of the French text to the English translated text allows us to explore cultural difference across translation.
In 2007, James Kincaid abridged the 11-volume erotic diary *My Secret Life,* making this underground work available to a wider readership for the first time. But what did he leave in–and out–in the editing process? This artifact explores the function of his editorial interventions and what they infer in the context of a modern readership.
– Viktoria Cseh
What lies between similar covers of a book are never identical.
The new preface wrests fictional authorship of the queer novel *Teleny* from the character of Des Grieux and gives it to a new frame-narrator, one who claims to have transcribed personal conversations with Des Grieux, and affirms for us that *Teleny* is “not a novel” but “a true story, the dramatic adventure of two young and beautiful creatures.”
Audiobooks are a time and talent-intensive process, much more likely to come out for newly published material than non-mainstream, archived works such as Victorian erotica. This leaves an unfulfilled niche for adaptation – but is it worth filling? One man definitely thinks so, and he is taking on the giant of all erotic lit to do it.