Year

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of English Literatures, Languages and Philosophy - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

“ ‘What men ought to be’: Masculinities in Jane Austen’s Novels” examines Jane Austen’s literary constructions of men and masculinity as feminine and feminist contributions to the public debate on ideal English masculinity throughout the Romantic period. It explores the problematic position of women writers in critiquing masculinity in the highly politicised context of the Romantic period and develops a theoretical approach to interpreting their constructions of desirable and undesirable masculinities as being representative of their social, cultural and feminist concerns. Throughout her novels, Jane Austen’s representations of the desirable male – of ‘what men ought to be’ – are informed by her fundamental concerns regarding the realisation of female selfhood and the fulfilment of women’s desires, and the political survival and moral wellbeing of the English nation. This thesis argues that Austen’s novels seek to reform socially-approved codes of gentry masculinity by endorsing a model of male identity that is not dependent on the submission or passivity of women in courtship or domestic relationships, promoted by conventional patriarchal ideologies. Austen’s novel’s dramatise the process by which men can choose to forge a masculine identity that allows women a greater socially and publicly participatory role, both enabling the fulfilment of female desire and ensuring the security and wellbeing of the English nation.

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