Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism

Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism

Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism

Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism

Synopsis

"Cultural and individual fantasies of masculinity enter troubling terrain in gothic tales of British and German Romanticism. In the interiority of dreams and visionary spaces, a male protagonist makes a fateful encounter with a supernaturalized force and finds himself dispossessed of his real and symbolic masculine estate. Emphasizing the interdisciplinary range of this recurring motif, Ellen Brinks traces "distressed masculinity" in canonical instances of gothic imagination - Byron's Oriental Tales and Coleridge's Christabel - but also in works such as Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind, Keats's Hyperion fragments, and Freud's letters and scientific writings. Gothic tropes and tableaux of the effeminizing supernatural cross a range of genres and perplex social and "natural" distinctions concerning masculinity and male sexuality to produce multiple, often contradictory, identifications. They report, from various sites, increasing anxieties about male effeminacy or the emergence of a male "homosexual" identity within the fraught cultural desires during the Romantic period and its Freudian afterlife. An elegant and compelling account of the construction of sex and gender in the Gothic, Gothic Masculinity will be of interest to scholars of sexuality, gender, queer theory, Romantic subjectivity, and the German and English Gothic." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Bearing the gigantic sword of the ancestor alfonso the Good, a procession of one hundred young men “[seem] to faint under the weight of it.” in this fashion Horace Walpole stages the public ceremony of paternal inheritance in The Castle of Otranto (1764), designated the first gothic novel. These young men falter in their designated “manly” role: carrying the past—the sword inscribed with the name of the legitimate heir—into the present. The Castle of Otranto, the “original” gothic, dramatizes the difficulty of the Father's legacy, his emblematic sword, for a younger generation of men. If Alfonso's sword stands for phallic masculinity as real and symbolic legitimacy, this inheritance or entailment can be said, literally, to overbear a younger generation of men. Without putting too much interpretive pressure upon this scene, the young men's loss of physical control, articulated through an “unmanly” response, the swoon, recasts the difficulty with this legacy as a problem with its implied gender demands. It is unleashed by the supernatural presence and display of Alfonso's sword, which, like his tremendous helmet and armor, intrudes into a startled present.

Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism situates itself in the decades shadowed by Walpole's novel and explores richer, more complex stagings of Otranto's “distressed masculinity” in works of Hegel, Keats, Byron, Coleridge, and, in a leap forward, in the early work of Freud. These authors do not write full-fledged Gothic novels, but they do write highly gothicized narratives where a male protagonist encounters an effeminizing supernatural force. He finds himself divested or dispossessed of his real and symbolic masculine estate within the imaginary, interiorized, or fantastic spaces of these narratives. What interests me particularly is that the gothic is the discourse that comes to these authors' minds when gender stress is under discussion. Gothic tropes and tableaux cross a range of genres and perplex social and “natural” distinctions concerning masculinity and male sexuality to produce multiple, often contradictory, identifications.

Thus, I shall be concerned with some canonical instances of gothic . . .

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