Monumental Anxieties: Homoerotic Desire and Feminine Influence in 19th Century U.S. Literature

By Scott S. Derrick | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
Beyond Influence, Beyond Homoeroticism, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Freudian psychoanalysis in the first part of the twentieth century assumes a central role in the genesis of understandings of gender and sexuality, as it formalizes and institutionalizes as knowledge the anxious accomodations I have been tracing in nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century literature. Freud, though hardly a product of U.S. culture, provides a conflict-ridden narrative of how the male subject passes from an early maternal identification, through the hazards of female identification and homosexuality, to a separated, male-identified, and heterosexual adulthood. A string of male U.S. authors, I have argued, have produced their own literary versions of this story throughout nineteenth-century literature, as a consequence of the need to produce a distinctly masculine literary authority out of the received materials of culture and through the structures of narrative. These versions explore the conflicts of masculinity, but ultimately take refuge in an aestheticized transcendence of its conflicts. Their endings may be ironically undercut, but narratively necessary and culturally powerful nonetheless. Indeed, the nineteenth-century authors I have examined at times seem to construct masculine authority through a difficult-to-resist transcendence of their own ironical self-consciousness, as if intimations of immorality finally provide no help.

If Freudian psychoanalysis represents a culturally powerful force in the institutionalization of narratives of male development, twentieth-century

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