Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity
While drawing on work in feminism, queer theory, and cultural history, Dandies and Desert Saints challenges scholars to rethink simplistic notions of Victorian manhood.
James Eli Adams examines masculine identity in Victorian literature from Thomas Carlyle through Oscar Wilde, analyzing authors who identify the age's ideal of manhood as the power of self-discipline. What distinguishes Adams's book from others in the recent explosion of interest in masculinity is his refusal to approach masculinity primarily in terms of "patriarchy" or "phallogocentrism" or within the binary of homosexualities and heterosexualities. He uncovers unexpected complexities in - and similarities among - icons of middle-class masculinity: the dandy, the gentleman, the priest, the prophet, and the soldier.
The book approaches masculinity as a social norm and a calculated rhetorical construction, thus arguing that concepts such as "effeminate" and "unmanly" have been misunderstood. Adams brings to light a wealth of neglected affinities among widely disparate writers - such as Carlyle and Walter Pater; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Charles Kingsley - and reshapes familiar outlines of Victorian literary history.
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