ABSTRACT

Histories of Victorian queer studies often start with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Between Men (1985). In these historiographies, sexuality remains the center of scholarly inquiries and eventually comes to stand for forms of “queerness.” Seeking to expand our understanding of “queerness,” this article traces alternative histories of Victorian queer studies through feminist historicist and postcolonial criticism in the 1980s and 1990s. Writing against the first wave of feminist criticism, these studies problematize the figure of the domestic woman and theorize her queerness through different lenses. By exploring the conflicting and often contradictory process of gender-making in the nineteenth century, feminist historicists foreground the “gender trouble” of the domestic woman and her queer potential. Such queer potential, however, is subsequently located in the context of English imperialism by postcolonial feminist scholars, who revisit the ambivalent relationship between domestic femininity and imperial ideology, thereby highlighting the intertwined processes of gender- and empire-making in Victorian England. Simultaneously building on and revising contemporary queer theory, these works not only constitute alternative histories of Victorian queer studies but also point to its possible futures.

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