Masculinity and manliness in the work of Elizabeth Gaskell
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Mid-nineteenth-century England saw great social transformation in the face of industrialisation, changing working and living conditions, and voting reforms, and with these changes came new conceptions of masculinity and what it meant to be a man and a gentleman. Though much critical attention has been given to Elizabeth Gaskell’s representation of women—not surprisingly, given titles such as Wives and Daughters, Mary Barton, Cousin Phillis, and Ruth—her works span class, region, time, and genre to grapple with ideas of masculinity. This thesis aims to explore her understanding of masculine identity as a social construct, to examine the representation of manliness in her novels, and to consider how her writing engages with Victorian ideologies of masculinity. The introduction provides context on Gaskell’s background and Unitarian faith, discourses of sympathy, Victorian manliness, and masculinity studies. The thesis is presented in three sections, each comprising two chapters. The first examines working-class masculinity and the gentleman in her industrial fiction; the second explores intertextuality, examining the ways in which she borrows and transforms notions of masculinity from contemporaries’ works; and the third examines her representation of previous models of manhood in her historical fiction. Together, these sections reveal that Gaskell views masculinity not as monolithic but rather as relational and shaped by many contexts, from regional identity and historic change to intertextuality and sympathy, which echo throughout her entire oeuvre; in examining her longer fiction in juxtaposition, this thesis makes it clear that just as Gaskell views masculinity as a category that cannot be neatly contained, she systematically excludes male characters from her resolutions, struggling to contain her models of masculinity within the form of the novel. The appendix, based on archival research, presents a list of the books that Elizabeth and/or William Gaskell borrowed between 1850 and 1865 from Manchester’s Portico Library.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2022-05-31
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 31st May 2022
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