aestheticism, decadence, poetry, history, classicism, medievalism


Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval History | Other Classics

Document Type

Critical Essay (Special Topic)




This article examines the relationship between Algernon Charles Swinburne’s poetic writing and history, especially in regards to how he explores sexual transgressions. The article begins with how aestheticism works in tangent with history to further these transgressions within a historical context and especially within the realm of Victorian Christianity. Next, Swinburne’s medieval aesthetics in “The Leper” will be analyzed in regards specifically necrophilia and the taking care of a leper, and how the writing of this poem was both a condemnation of Christianity and an accidental upholding of it. The violent homoeroticism and monstrous femininity of “Anactoria” are also looked at in reference to a classical history and how he tried and failed to use homoeroticism to his advantage in attempting to transgress against Victorian ideals. Finally, an examination of the relationship between Swinburne’s writing and history will conclude that Swinburne damned his own pre-Raphaelite/aesthetic movement as well as the Decadence movement that came after by accidentally associating these sexual and gender oriented transgressions with aestheticism.