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Reviews

"An exciting and original account of late-Victorian aestheticism that joins intellectual history, close reading, and queer theory. Against narratives that emphasize queer fragmentation, marginalization, and social determination, Friedman tells a story in which autonomy and freedom are given center stage. The book's literary sensitivity is matched by its critical acumen; revelatory."

"This impressive book, written in compellingly lucid and assured prose, offers a distinctive contribution to the study of both aestheticism and queer theory."

"Dustin Friedman writes rigorously and compellingly about the investment of Victorian aestheticism in earlier aesthetic philosophy, especially Hegel and Kant, but also brings that inspiration to the present day with an insightful thesis on the conceptual challenge of aestheticism for recent queer theory. A very smart and readable discussion!"

"A stunning debut that traces a genealogy of queer aesthetic thought from idealist philosophy to modern queer theory and routes this genealogy through British aestheticism. Focusing on the 'erotic negativity' of Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee, and Michael Field, Dustin Friedman shows how queer aesthetes at the fin de siècle asserted a homoeroticized version of Hegelian negativity, one that continues to inspire queer thought today."

"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."