"In a study of great passion and unusual lucidity, Dustin Friedman proposes a bold recalibration of our understanding of the intersection of same-sex desire and the development of modern aesthetics. How does the passionate response to beauty relate to the lived experience of non-normative sexual identity? How might concepts of historical development often taken to ratify the most conservative tendencies in culture provide models for recovering subject positions that evidently run counter to such tendencies? Moving beyond widely-held conventions and critical commonplaces, this study revivifies the work of major philosophers and critics even as it compellingly illuminates the fundamental role of illicit passions in shaping their influence. Informed at once by close attention to central debates in queer theory, nuanced engagement with the nineteenth-century aesthetic tradition, and careful analysis of the intersection of desire, idea, and form in major works of British aestheticism, Before Queer Theory offers a sound introduction to the major fields on which it touches and a heartfelt polemical intervention into recent debates on the articulation of queer identity with the past and future."