Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity

Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity

Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity

Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity

Synopsis

A Choice "Outstanding Academic Book for 1996" While drawing on work in feminism, queer theory, and cultural history, Dandies and Desert Saints challenges scholars to rethink simplistic notions of Victorian manhood. James Eli Adams examines masculine identity in Victorian literature from Thomas Carlyle through Oscar Wilde, analyzing authors who identify the age's ideal of manhood as the power of self-discipline. What distinguishes Adams's book from others in the recent explosion of interest in masculinity is his refusal to approach masculinity primarily in terms of "patriarchy" or "phallogocentrism" or within the binary of homosexualities and heterosexualities.

Excerpt

The old ideal of Manhood has grown obsolete, and the new is still

invisible to us, and we grope after it in darkness, one clutching this

phantom, another that; Werterism, Byronism, even Brummelism,

each has its day.

Thomas Carlyle, "Characteristics" (1831)

To be bold against the enemy is the prerogative of brutes; but the prerogative of a man is to be bold against himself.

Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho! (1857)

In this book I explore a contradiction within Victorian patriarchy, by which the same gender system that underwrote male dominance also called into question the "manliness" of intellectual labor. Under the gendered logics of domestic ideology, a wide array of Victorian intellectual vocations—Tennysonian poetry, Tractarian faith, Arnoldian culture, Paterian aestheticism, even Carlylean prophecy—came to resemble models of feminine activity and authority, particularly the "influence" assigned to the domestic woman. From this perspective, the exclusionary force of Carlyle's "hero as man of letters" is charged with the energies and anxieties of masculine self-legitimation; it represents one especially vehement effort to claim for those engaged in the work of Coleridge's "clerisy" the status of normative manhood. The convergence of domestic and intellectual labor has been noted in recent feminist analyses of Victorian gender and culture; typically, however, those analyses concentrate on the work of gender in marginalizing women . . .

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