Man up : a study of gendered expectations of masculinity at the 'fin de siècle'
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The main themes of this thesis are masculinities, fluctuations in socially constructed gender roles at the fin de siècle and how a number of cathartic issues influenced these. The strongest of these issues was the New Woman Question which, while demanding developments for women, threatened the stability of Victorian gender norms. This forced both sexes to rethink and renegotiate their positions within society. Women sought options that would free them from the vagaries of the marriage market and looked to move into a more public sphere. Many saw this as a threat to the patriarchal status quo and the debates that ensued were many and vociferous. In response to this, men had to look within and question various modes of masculinity and manliness that they had previously taken for granted and that they now viewed as under threat. The fin de siècle was a time of major gender upheaval which, I propose, is reflected in its literature. I intend to explore the anxieties of both genders by examination of the selected texts which cover pertinent aspects of the similarities and contrasts in the way male and female authors negotiate masculinities in relation to social and gendered spaces. In this way, I hope to investigate the underlying themes which inform the novels. I aim to research reasons for disparity in approaches to gender issues, to highlight the importance of masculinities in relation to gendered positions in fin-de-siècle discourses and to show why relations between the sexes had to evolve.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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