The Psychopathology of the Victorian Man: A Psychoanalytic Study of Masculinity in Late-Victorian Gothic Fiction
Sales, Michael Justine
This thesis explores the structural and psychic limitations of Victorian masculinity, which have been concealed and repressed at the time by dominant phantom ideals of the Victorian man as a stable and coherent subject. The goal of this thesis is to radically reimagine the figure of the Victorian man and to show that Victorian masculinity is a social construction riddled with gaps, inconsistencies, and tensions between a man’s psychic reality and his symbolic role within the social context he is operating under. The primary works included are Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. My thesis deviates from other queer readings of masculinity by mostly focusing on male heterosexual desires and highlighting the pathological aspects in their construction of selfhood. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, I argue that Dorian has an intimate relationship with the death drive and his fascination with the imaginary rapidly devolves into pathological narcissism and psychosis. The portrait, then, becomes the catalyst for male-ego annihilation as Dorian starts seeking pleasures beyond the confines of the symbolic order. In Dracula, I argue that Jonathan Harker suffers from a psychosexual dysfunction where he can only project desire on a debased sexual object and can only love through an elevated object like Mina. The Madonna/whore complex afflicts not just Jonathan, but also the other male characters in the text. The encounter with the monstrous feminine threatens the ontological existence of these Victorian men as their inability to process unconventional and uncanny women apart from this binary exacerbates anxiety, hysteria, and trauma.
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