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    Frederick Rolfe’s Christmas cards: popular culture and the construction of queerness in late Victorian Britain

    Janes, Dominic (2012) Frederick Rolfe’s Christmas cards: popular culture and the construction of queerness in late Victorian Britain. Early Popular Visual Culture 10 (2), pp. 105-124. ISSN 1746-0654.

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    This article explores how the British writer and artist Frederick Rolfe (1860–1913) made use of images derived from popular visual culture to construct and express a queer identity that attempted to combine cultural, religious and sexual deviance. He made particular use of practices of bricolage of images and artefacts, as can be seen from both his photographs and novels. The Christmas cards that he posted into a scrapbook in the early 1880s can be analysed as evidencing his development of a particular form of queer aesthetic self-expression. This article argues that satires – one of these cards was a satire on clerical effeminacy – have increasingly been seen in a positive light as being implicated in the very practices of deviance that they appear to denounce. However, in relation to aestheticism such arguments may have been taken too far, because of the inherently anti-aesthetic drive of visual satire towards the grotesque. It is suggested that it was only in Rolfe’s final years, when he emerged from the quasi-ecclesiastical closet and developed an intense sex life in Venice, that he found a new confidence to depict himself in ways that were less reliant on stereotypes derived from popular culture and which relied on appropriation of the signs of manly normativity rather than on the suggestive juxtaposition of attributes of deviance.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): aestheticism; the body; bricolage; Christmas cards; Frederick Rolfe; homosexuality; queer
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Dominic Janes
    Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 16:30
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:00


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