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The Uranians were a small and clandestine group of male homosexual poets who published works between 1858, when William Johnson Cory published Ionica, and 1930. Although most of them were English, they had counterparts in the United States and France.
Origin of the term [ edit ]
Their name is commonly believed to derive from the work of the German theorist and campaigner Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in the 1860s, with the name later taken up by John Addington Symonds and others who rendered it as 'Uranian'.
The movement [ edit ]
The work of the Uranian poets was characterized by an idealised appeal to the history of Ancient Greece and a "sentimental infatuation" of older men for adolescent boys, as well as by a use of conservative verse forms.
The chief poets of this clique were William Johnson Cory, Lord Alfred Douglas, Montague Summers, John Francis Bloxam, Charles Kains Jackson, John Gambril Nicholson, E. E. Bradford, John Addington Symonds, Edmund John, John Moray Stuart-Young, Charles Edward Sayle, Fabian S. Woodley, and several pseudonymous authors such as "Philebus" (John Leslie Barford) and "A. Newman" (Francis Edwin Murray). The flamboyantly eccentric novelist Frederick Rolfe (also known as "Baron Corvo") was a unifying presence in their social network, both within and without Venice.
Historian Neil McKenna has argued that Uranian poetry had a central role in the upper-class homosexual subcultures of the Victorian period. He insisted that poetry was the main medium through which writers such as Oscar Wilde, George Ives and Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell sought to challenge the anti-homosexual prejudices of the age.
Marginally associated with their world were more famous writers such as Edward Carpenter, as well as the obscure but prophetic poet-printer Ralph Chubb. His majestic volumes of lithographs celebrated the adolescent boy as an Ideal. The Uranian quest to revive the Greek notion of paiderastia was not successful.
There are only two book-length studies of the Uranians: Love In Earnest by Timothy d'Arch Smith (1970) and Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde by Michael Matthew Kaylor (2006; available as an open-access E-text). Kaylor expands the Uranian canon by situating several major Victorians within the group. Other critics, such as Richard Dellamora (Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism, 1990) and Linda Dowling (Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford, 1994) have contributed more recently to the scant knowledge about this group. Paul Fussell discusses Uranian poetry in his book The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), suggesting that it provided a model for homoerotic representations in the war poets of World War I (e.g. Wilfred Owen).
References [ edit ]
- Timothy d'Arch Smith, Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English "Uranian" Poets from 1889 to 1930 (1970).
- Michael Matthew Kaylor, Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde (2006) (Available as an open-access PDF) .
- Neil McKenna, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (2003).