twentieth-century pioneers of the scientific study of sex make extensive use of
literary sources in their works. Not only do they adopt terms and concepts from
fictional sources, but literary representations and their authors frequently
serve as case studies which are deemed as valid as empirical observations.
Surprisingly, this blending of discourses, which has substantially shaped the
nosologies of the early sexologists, has received little critical attention.
This paper analyzes the epistemological status and functions that are assigned
to fictional representations in the works of the British sexologist Havelock
Ellis, as well as the wider theoretical ramifications of factualizing fictions.
The way in which literary sources are used in Ellis’ and other sexological
texts not only sheds light on the production of sexual knowledge and processes
of discourse formation, but also brings to the fore the enmeshment of fantasy,
language and desire, as well as the dependence of an entire scientific
discipline upon narratives – both fictional and factual in nature.