Victorian Literature and Culture

Research Article

THE ROMOLA CODE: “MEN OF APPETITES” IN GEORGE ELIOT'S HISTORICAL NOVEL

Nancy Henrya1

a1 The University of Tennessee

The fifteenth-century Florentine world that George Eliot studied and recreated in Romola (Cornhill Magazine, July 1862–August 1863) was characterized by the idea of love between males and the practice of sex between males. Same sex desire took various forms from the love of the older teacher for his pupil to the illegal but common practice of penetrating adolescent boys, for which many fifteenth-century Florentine men were prosecuted, particularly under the regime of the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola (1494–98). The monasteries themselves constituted an intense, all-male community of voluntary celibacy. These various sexual behaviors co-existed with more visible heterosexual institutions and practices, from the often politicized arranged marriages of the wealthy elite to the casual coupling of the peasant classes.

(Online publication May 18 2011)

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