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

By Ellen Brinks | Go to book overview

3
Sharing Gothic Secrets:
Byron's The Giaour and Lara

… whatever effect this infamous passion had in other ages, and other coun-
tries, it seem'd a peculiar blessing on our air and climate, that there was a
plague-spot visibly imprinted on all that are tainted with it, in this nation
at least.

— John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Unless like wise Tiresias we had proved,
By turns the difference of the several sexes

Don Juan, 14.73

IN KEATS'S HYPERION FRAGMENTS, THE GOTHIC IS ALIGNED WITH THE effeminization of the male protagonist insofar as it unleashes, and occasions the need to discipline, the masochistic pleasures allied with the poet's election into a select all-male community. In The Giaour and Lara, the first and last of Byron's Oriental Tales, the gothic once again liberates homoeroticized energies between men, in individual and collective fantasy, only to demand their repudiation or punishment. With the exception of his drama Manfred, Byron's Oriental Tales count as his most extensive exploration of the gothic mode. Supernatural figures such as the vampire and the Gorgon, settings of imprisonment and exile, and allusions to William Beckford's Vathek, Matthew Lewis's The Monk, and Robert Southey's Thalaba signal a gothic provenance. More important to their thematics of dispossession, however, are the tales' expressly cultivated gothic rhetoric of the secret, unintelligible language, and the mysterious.

Because of their indeterminacy or “negativity,” secrets attract and contain both the fear of, and desire for, knowledge. Andrew Elfenbein has noted the significance of the secret in the construction of late eighteenth-century selfhood: it is less the secret's content than the “secrecy effect” that anticipates nineteeth-century “deep selfhood” and contri-

-68-

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Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture 2
  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Introduction 11
  • 1: Hegel Possessed 24
  • 2: The Male Romantic Poet as Gothic Subject 49
  • 3: Sharing Gothic Secrets 68
  • 4: “This Dream It Would Not Pass Away” 91
  • 5: The Gothic Romance of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Fliess 113
  • Notes 144
  • Selected Bibliography 198
  • Index 213
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