This article examines the significance of music and musical performance in Teleny, or the Reverse of the Medal (1893), an anonymous pornographic novel attributed by some scholars to Oscar Wilde. It draws upon historical material on late-Victorian concert venues, queer literary sub-cultures and sexology to illuminate the representation of musical spaces in the text. Teleny exists in two different versions: an English text, which is set in Paris, and a French text, which is set in London. The opening section of the article suggests that Teleny’s dynamic engagement with cosmopolitan cultural exchange between Paris and London is brought into sharper focus by situating the musical performances in the novel in the precise built environment of London’s Queen Hall. The second section explores the novel’s concern with queer geographies (the Orient, Eastern Europe) in the context of other texts that address music and homosexual identity in the period. The third section examines the significance of space in the novel’s presentation of musical listening, arguing that its focus on the materiality of sound and the haptic transmission of desire responds to sexological conceptions of embodied musical response by homosexual subjects. The significance of this sensory experience of listening is understood in the light of Sara Ahmed’s theorization of ‘queer phenomenology’. Finally, the article traces the significance of musical allusions to songs by Franz Schubert to show how they form part of the novel’s broader concerns with the spatial articulation of same-sex desire and the representation of queer urban geographies.
Riddell, F. (2020). Queer Music in the Queen's Hall: Teleny and Decadent Musical Geographies at the Fin de Siecle. Journal of Victorian Culture, 25(4), 593-608. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcaa016