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Queer DickensErotics, Families, Masculinities$
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Holly Furneaux

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199566099

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199566099.001.0001

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‘It is impossible to be gentler’: The Homoerotics of Nursing in Victorian Culture

‘It is impossible to be gentler’: The Homoerotics of Nursing in Victorian Culture

(p.177) 5 ‘It is impossible to be gentler’: The Homoerotics of Nursing in Victorian Culture
Queer Dickens

Holly Furneaux (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Dickens's strategic queer use of nursing, an intensely eroticized practice in his culture. It suggests that Dickens's career long preoccupation with the gentle, often nursing, male reflects a much broader, historically elided, Victorian concern with tender masculinities. It endeavours to rethink the interrelated categories of masculinity and male homoeroticism through scrutiny of the previously under-examined figure of the tactile man. It suggests that the extremely tender expressions of desire offered in Dickens's scenes of same-sex nursing provide an alternative frame of interpretation to that passed forward by the influential homoerotic violence thesis, outlined in the introduction to this project. Through an exploration of the Victorian sexualization of nursing, the chapter argues that Dickens deploys this eroticizing of nurse/patient roles throughout his fiction to develop more affirmative, tender strategies for articulating same-sex desire.

Keywords:   Charles Dickens, same-sex nursing, same-sex desire, nurse and patient roles, homoerotic

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