Kristin Mahoney

C636 Wells Hall


Associate Professor
Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
Director of Literary Studies

Literary Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Kristin Mahoney’s research focuses on late-Victorian Decadence and its afterlives in the twentieth century. She is the author of Literature and the Politics of Post-Victorian Decadence (Cambridge University Press, 2015), in which she argues that the early twentieth century was a period in which the specters of the fin de siècle exercised a remarkable draw on the modern cultural imagination and troubled emergent avant-gardistes. Literature and the Politics of Post-Victorian Decadence focuses on Decadent authors and artists who refused to assimilate to the aesthetic and political ethos of the modernist era, representing themselves instead as time travelers from the previous century for whom twentieth-century modernity was both baffling and disappointing. However, they did not turn entirely from the modern moment, but rather relied on Decadent strategies to participate in conversations concerning the most highly-vexed issues of the period including war, the rise of the Labour Party, the question of women’s sexual freedom, and changing conceptions of sexual and gender identities. She is currently completing a project entitled Queer Kinship after Wilde: Transnational Decadence and the Family, in which she argues that late-Victorian Decadent ideas concerning affiliation and desire operated as models for a new generation of artists and writers in the twentieth century who wished to operate outside the boundaries of the conventional, heteronormative family. The representation of eroticism and kinship in the works of the sculptor Eric Gill, for example, is inflected by his contact with queer Decadent Catholicism as practiced by “Michael Field” (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper) and the Decadent poet and priest John Gray. The Harlem Renaissance illustrator Richard Bruce Nugent drew heavily from Wilde and the Decadent illustrator Aubrey Beardsley in his images of queer desire and incest. Like their Victorian antecedents, these thinkers drew upon a global set of ideas concerning kinship, and they traveled widely, encountering vastly different models of connection and cooperation, as they worked to disentangle themselves from England’s sexual and gender ideals and generate new ways of conceiving of familial networks and community. Attending to the work of these authors and artists allows us to see how Victorian Decadence’s ideas about the family were revised, reformulated, and inflected with a cosmopolitan sensibility by a network of bohemian twentieth-century figures who ensured that Wildean and Decadent notions of kinship remained a vital part of conversations concerning sexuality and the family during the modernist period. Her articles have appeared in Victorian StudiesVictorian Literature and Culture, and Criticism. Before joining the Department of English at MSU, she taught at Western Washington University.

Ph.D., English, University of Notre Dame, August 2004

M.A., English, University of Notre Dame, May 2001

B.A., Literature, New College of Florida, June 1998


ENG 210 Foundations of Literary Study

ENG 211H Foundations of Literary Study

ENG 320B Methodologies of Literary History: Region, School, or Movement
(The Cult of Beauty: Pre-Raphaelitism/Aestheticism/Decadence)

ENG 362 Studies in Modern/Contemporary Literature

WS 424 Queer Studies Seminar
(Queer Literary Histories)

ENG 484C Critical Questions in a Literary Period
(Apocalyptic Victorians)

ENG 814 Transnational Decadence and Modernism


“Taking Wilde to Sri Lanka & Beardsley to Harlem: Decadent Practice, Race, and Orientalism.” Victorian Literature and Culture(2021)

“Nancy Cunard and the Afterlives of Decadent Desire.” Feminist Modernist Studies 4.2 (2021):  222-34.

“The Decadent Novel.” The Oxford Handbook of Decadence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. 

“Camp Modernism and Decadence.” A History of Literary Decadence. Ed. Alex Murray.  Cambridge University Press, 2020. 

“Feeling Like an Outsider: Harold Acton, Anna May Wong, and Decadent Cosmopolitanism in  China.” Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies 3.1 (2020): 119-23.

“Dainty Malice: Ada Leverson, Post-Victorian Decadence, and Feminist Dandyism.” Decadence in the Age of Modernism. Ed. Alex Murray and Kate Hext. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.

“Michael Field’s Eric Gill: Radical Kinship, Cosmopolitanism, and Queer Catholicism.” Michael Field, Decadent Moderns. Ed. Ana Vadillo and Sarah Parker. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2019.

“Decadence.” Victorian Literature and Culture 46.3/4 (2018): 636-40.

“An Extraordinary Marriage: The Mackenzies, Post-Victorian Decadence, and the Queer Cosmopolitanism of Capri.” Studies in Walter Pater and Aestheticism 3 (2018): 113-131.

“On the Ceylon National Review, 1906-11.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History (2018). 

“Ethics and Empathy in the Literary Criticism of Vernon Lee.” Nineteenth-Century Prose 43.1-2 (2016): 193-210.

“Camp Aesthetics and Inequality: Baron Corvo’s Toto Stories.” Economies of Desire in the Long Nineteenth Century: Libidinal Lives. Ed. Jane Ford and Kim Edwards Keates. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Literature and the Politics of Post-Victorian Decadence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

“The Transition to Modernism: Recent Scholarship on the Victorian/Modern Divide.” Literature Compass 10.9 (2013): (716-24).

“Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Collecting in The Connoisseur, An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors.” Victorian Periodicals Review 45.2 (2012): 175-99.

“Work, Lack, and Longing: D.G. Rossetti’s ‘The Blessed Damozel’ and the Working Men’s College.” Victorian Studies 52.2 (2010): 219-248.

“Haunted Collections: Vernon Lee and Ethical Consumption.” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 48.1 (2006): 39-67.

University News

Steffke Receives Prize Awarded to Most Outstanding Graduating Senior
Published April 16, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
portrait of a girl with brown hair wearing a brown blazer and a white shirt
Emily Steffke, a graduating senior earning a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in English, has been named the 2020 recipient of the Richard Lee Featherstone Endowed Prize.  The prize is given…Read now »