Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction

Duke University Press, 1996

Never has the Victorian novel appeared so perverse as it does in these pages -- and never has its perversity seemed so fundamental to its accomplishment. Whether discussing George Eliot's lesbian readers, Anthony Trollope's whorish heroines, or Charles Dickens's masturbating characters, Cohen's study explodes the decorum of mainstream nineteenth-century fiction. By viewing this fiction alongside the most alarming public scandals of the day, Cohen exposes both the scandalousness of this literature and its sexiness. Scandal, then as now, makes public the secret indiscretions of prominent people, engrossing its audience in salacious details that violate the very code of propriety its aims to enforce.