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Focusing on the representation of same-sex desire in Victorian autobiographical writing, Oliver Buckton offers readings of works by influential figures in late-19th-century literature and culture. Combining research, historical analysis, and contemporary theories of autobiography, gender and sexual identity, he provides studies of confessional narratives by Edward Carpenter, John Henry Newman, John Addington Symonds, Oscar Wilde, and, in an epilogue, E.M. Forster. By examining the confessional elements of these writings, Buckton brings secrecy into focus as a central and productive component of autobiographical discourse. He challenges the view of secrecy as the suppression of information, instead using the term to suggest an oscillation between authorial self-disclosure and silence or reserve - a strategy for arousing the reader's interest and establishing a relation based on shared kwledge while deferring or displacing the revelation of potentially incriminating and scandalous desires. Though their disclosures of same-sex desire jeopardized the cultural privilege granted these writers by Victorian codes of authorship and masculinity, their use of secrecy, Buckton shows, allowed them to protect themselves from Victorian stigma and to challenge prevailing constructions of sexual identity.
Oliver S. Buckton is associate professor of English at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.