This year, the North American Victorian Studies Association held their first undergraduate presentation session as part of their annual conference. Eckerd senior Jo Serpico was one of its eight presenters.
The conference was held from Oct. 11-14, with the undergraduate presentation on Sunday morning. At 8 a.m., Serpico and fellow undergraduates gathered at the Hilton in downtown St. Petersburg and put up posters detailing their theses, evidence and conclusions. For two hours, they chatted with other conference-goers from across the country, explaining and answering questions about their projects.
Serpico’s project compared two versions of Oscar Wilde’s novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” These were the “canonical” version with a number of edits made by JM Stoddart and an uncensored manuscript that was recently published by Harvard University Press. Serpico explored the ways in which Stoddart had effectively censored Wilde’s original manuscript, cutting overt references to both homosexuality and heterosexual promiscuity.
“My project examines the history of queer silencing and censorship,” Serpico said. “The uncensored version is the tale of the morality of the sexual deviant, while the censored version is the tale of the morality of the human.
One change was the outright omission of a line that referred to Dorian as a man “purely feminine in [his] tenderness.” Serpico said that this cut came from a widespread Victorian fear that depicting a man as anything other than masculine was a direct reference to homosexuality.
Serpico was nominated for the project by Literature Instructor Amy Possidente after a paper of hers was accepted by NAVSA to be presented at the conference.
Serpico says Possidente’s nomination made him feel that his work was important and worthy of being heard. The chance to be able to talk to others who were interested in this particular field was also exciting, as Eckerd doesn’t offer many classes focused on Victorian literature.
Serpico, who intends to earn an MFA in poetry after he graduates, says that his understanding of Victorian culture and the way it has contributed to a contemporary culture of queer censorship and silencing has had a strong influence on his poetry. Though he doesn’t plan on studying Victorian literature after college, he says that his undergraduate study of it will continue to influence his writing career.