Date of Award

12-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Manganelli, Kimberly

Committee Member

Bushnell, Cameron F.

Committee Member

Goss, Erin

Abstract

While Elaine Showalter argues that the 'crisis in masculinity' occurs with the emergence of the New Woman and the fin de sicle, this thesis suggests that men, specifically here wealthy men, were in crisis long before these phenomena due to their dissolved understanding of their place and position amidst immense changes in Victorian England. An interrogation of 1860s sensation fiction, and specifically Wilkie Collins's Basil and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, suggests that men grappled with their position and masculinity prior to the fin de sicle as evidenced by the heroine-prescribed social deaths of Basil and George Talboys. After historical and legislative events of the 1850s--Crimean War, Indian Mutiny of 1857, and the Matrimonial Causes Act--men's competency and position as empowered patriarchs was questioned, and thus New Men emerged, who are recognized for this thesis's purposes as aristocratic men who fail to socially evolve amidst these changes and thus are ultimately rendered as socially dead, feminized figures who reside as dependents with their sisters. This transformation from patriarchal figures to ornaments who disappear within the domestic sphere ultimately suggests that these men become strangers effectively threatening British national identity.

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