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Presented By: Nineteenth Century Forum

Dissertation Chapter Workshop---"The Queer Anxiety of John Addington Symonds"

Ana Popovic

Join the Nineteenth Century Forum to provide feedback on member Ana Popovic's work-in-progress! Email Dana Moss (, Elizabeth Reese ( or Emma Soberano ( for pre-circulated chapter.
Chapter Abstract:
In this essay, I read John Addington Symonds' Memoirs and personal correspondences as textual repositories of queer anxiety. I focus on Symonds' recollections about living in fear of being discovered and publicly humiliated, and I argue that queer anxiety is a structure of feeling constitutive of the homosexual closet. Examining his correspondence with Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, I reveal that Symonds theorized his affective life and developed a notion of the cultural origins of queer anxiety. With this, he sought to challenge the psychiatric definitions of homosexual neurosis as a congenital condition and dispute the scientific theories of homosexuality as illness. His autotheoretical contributions, however, were dismissed by sexologists as subjective inferences inadmissible to scientific epistemologies: as the object of the medical gaze, the anxious homosexual could speak, but he could never have the last word.

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