This chapter examines the place of uselessness in the history of queer representation by looking back to the moment of fin-de-siècle aestheticism. Whilst usefulness has been associated rhetorically with difference (legible most clearly in the idiomatic rendering of usefulness as 'making a difference'), this chapter explores how queers have been associated with sameness in the form of a perceived ineffectiveness that, rather than making a difference, tends to leave things the same. In particular, it addresses two aesthete protagonists from the novels of Henry James: Rowland Mallet in Roderick Hudson (1875) and Gabriel Nash in The Tragic Muse (1890). The chapter argues that the particular brand of aestheticism they embody (more attached to 'theory' than anything else) throws into relief some of the commitments of contemporary scholarship that has focused on queer failure and backwardness. Situated in a history in which queer theory itself has been subject to charges of uselessness from scholars apparently better attuned to the materialities of lived experience, Rowland and Gabriel serve to flag up a longer history of intimate connection between queers and uselessness.
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