Patricia Pulham

Her research focuses on decadence, aestheticism, late-Victorian literature and visual cultures, and neo-Victorian fiction; she sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies.

Her latest book, The Sculptural Body in Victorian Literature: Encrypted Sexualities (2020) was published by Edinburgh University Press in their Critical Studies in Victorian Culture series and republished in paperback in 2022.

Prof. Pulham’s lecture is titled Impossible Love: Keats, “Charmides” and Wildean Statue Love

Statue-love, variously described as Pygmalionism, statuephilia, agalmatophilia and, more recently, objectum sexuality, has a long and interesting history. While Pygmalion may have had an historical existence, in a precise geographical location, his story, like his statue, has taken on a vibrant life of its own. Although the Pygmalion myth resurfaces is some form in many periods, it becomes especially ubiquitous in the art and literature of the late-Victorian era. While Pygmalion’s statue is animated by his touch, other myths collected by classical mythographers show that the inanimate statue is equally capable of stimulating an erotic fantasy of animation centred in the viewer’s senses. Such myths include the tale of  an unknown Cnidian man’s love for Praxiteles’ statue of Aphrodite which is reworked in Oscar Widle’s poem ‘Charmides’. This lecture considers Wilde’s poem in relation to his love of the Romantic poet, John Keats, and argues that in ‘Charmides’, touch and vision function as expressions of Wilde’s desire for physical and artistic communion with Keats – both man and poetry.