Sexuality in Aubrey Beardsley's Story of Venus and Tannhäuser

925 WordsJun 16, 20184 Pages
Sexuality in Aubrey Beardsley's Story of Venus and Tannhäuser Aubrey Beardsley wrote The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser during the fin de siècle, the end of the Victorian Era. This decadent work, following Baudelaire's credo "art for art's sake first of all," portrays sex and sexualities in a playful manner. In addition to mocking conventional Victorian moral codes, and parodying pornographic conventions, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser also supports Foucault's idea that the Victorian Era witnessed a diffusion of sexualities. The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser was originally toned down and modified for publication in 1897 in The Savoy, a magazine that Beardsley served as art editor, under the title of Under The Hill. According to…show more content…
Beardsley's readers were not to be of the common society; rather they had to be well-educated sophisticates to understand his work. Another pornographic convention that Beardsley broke was that the characters had "personalities and functions in addition to sexual roles" says Zatlin (119). Also, they did not have unlimited sexual energy, rather Tannhäuser "was rather relieved when, an hour later, Priapusa and Doricourt and some others burst drunkenly into the room and claimed Venus for themselves" (Beardsley 34). With the diverse accounts of sexualities and the breaking of almost all of the prerequisites for erotic writing and pornography of the Victorian Era, Beardsley wrote a truly decadent manuscript that defied the conventions of mainstream literature. Whether Beardsley would have completed the tale had he lived longer, or had meant to leave it as is, an unending piece of work, is unknown. What is known is that Venus and Tannhäuser functions only as a piece of "art for art's sake" defying the social conventions that were applied to other works of that time. Works Cited Beardsley, Aubrey. "The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser." Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890's: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose. Ed. Karl Beckson. Chicago: Academy, 1981. 9-46. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol 1. New York: Vintage, 1978. Gillette, Paul

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