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Title: 'Acts of Extravagance and Folly’: the conception and control of transgressive masculinity in a Victorian cause célèbre
Authors: Connor, Mark
Supervisors: Jewkes, Yvonne
Jones, Hillary
Award date: 1-Feb-2015
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: Based on the prosecution of Ernest Boulton and William Park in 1870, the cross-dressing cause célèbre of the Victorian period, this Thesis explores the complex interplay of gendered nineteenth century narratives that emerged in both public and institutional discourse as a result of the arrest and prosecution for conspiracy to commit sodomy of the male cross-dressers and their acquaintances. Within the current historiography of the nineteenth century the regulation of male cross-dressers has been associated with the reflexive homophobia that has come to dominate modern interpretations of Victorian conceptions of male gender deviance. Whilst accepting that the case of Boulton and Park has rightly found its place within the established narrative histories of male sexuality this Thesis argues that the case, and indeed the image of the male cross-dresser in general, illuminates much more than nascent Victorian conceptions of homosexuality. The effeminacy of the cross-dresser, although universally stigmatised, is shown to represent a multitude of social ills ranging from economic indolence to moral degeneracy, placing the cross-dresser at the nexus of bourgeoisie social anxiety. Through the detailed analysis of legal transcripts and press reports this Thesis demonstrates the significance of the analysis of the male cross-dresser beyond the narrow confines of the history of sexuality. The prosecution of Boulton and Park attests to more than the increasingly reactionary policing of bourgeois conceptions of masculinity during the mid to late nineteenth century. The unprecedented publicity that accompanied the case combined with the cross-dresser’s ability to unite previously disparate strands of deviant discourses, like those of the female prostitute and male sodomite, will be shown to represent a rare moment in which the totality of bourgeois anxiety was manifest, a moment in which the cross-dresser became the gendered folk devil for an age of ideological temperance.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Dept. of Criminology
Leicester Theses

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