From the Kislak Stacks: Alicia Meyer, Shakespeare and the Sexologists: Gender and “Classic” Literature in Victorian Britain
This talk will focus on the literary pursuits of Havelock Ellis and a coterie of Victorian sexologists, printers, and scholars who created the original Mermaid Series of Old Dramatists. The Mermaids series is best known for making affordable paperback editions of Renaissance plays. Under Ellis, debates on obscenity and censorship embroiled the series. Despite its scandals, Mermaids was pivotal to constructing “classic,” canonical English Literature in the twentieth century. This talk returns to the life and afterlife of Ellis’ Mermaids series. I ask: what impact did the sexologists’ have on publishing, reading, and teaching Renaissance literature? Do sexological constructions of gender and sexuality live on in Renaissance studies? And, what can the history of Mermaids tell us about book-banning and “obscenity” today?