Nineteenth Century Aesthetics

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Lady Lillith. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington

Is he a youth? Is she a woman? Is she a goddess or a god? Love, fearing to be ignoble, Hesitates and suspends its confession. To make this beauty maudit Each gender brought its gift. —Théophile Gautier, Enamels and Cameos (1852) Gautier, writing in French a century and a half ago, used the noun sexe. It is doubtful he would have recognized the word gender except in relation to other nouns. Gender is a linguistic signifier, not a biological one. But a modern translator, speaking to his own cultural moment, observes the protocols of his time. Continue Reading