This book is a study of constructions of masculinity in a range of medical, cultural and Gothic narratives at the fin de siecle. The final decades of the nineteenth century provide a particularly complex set of examples of how the dominant masculine scripts came to be associated with disease, degeneration and perversity. The book first outlines the theories of degeneracy, explaining how they relate to masculinity. It then charts an alternative British tradition of degeneracy as this British context provides a more immediate background to the case histories that follow. The book presents a close reading of Sir Frederick Treves's Reminiscences; Treves's memoirs focus on the issues confronted by doctors working in the late Victorian period. The Whitechapel murders of 1888 are then discussed. The book focuses on how and why the medical profession became implicated in the murders. The murders also suggested the presence of a demonic, criminalised form of masculine control over the East End. Continuing with its focus on medicine, the book discusses medical textbooks on syphilis in the 1880s and how they responded to a shift in attitude towards attributing responsibility for the spread of syphilis. An examination of how London appears as a gendered space in the work of male authors such as Thomas De Quincey, and Charles Dickens, and later Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, is presented. Finally, some aspects of Oscar Wilde's trials are also examined as well as a range of his writings.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book argues that the final decades of the nineteenth century provide a particularly complex set of examples of how the dominant masculine scripts came to be associated with disease, degeneration and perversity. It outlines theories of degeneracy and how they relate to masculinity. The book charts an alternative British tradition of degeneracy which is developed in the work of Samuel Smiles, as this British context provides a more immediate background to the case histories. It presents a close reading of Sir Frederick Treves's Reminiscences. Treves's memoirs focus on the issues confronted by doctors working in the late Victorian period. The book examines how, and why, the Gothic frequently states the case, as in Bram Stoker's Dracula for example, for the need to re-establish a link between gender and sex.
Daniel Pick's authoritative study of theories of degeneration and their historical contexts, Faces of Degeneration charts the development of such theories from the 1840s to the end of the First World War. David Punter has noted how Gothic narratives such as Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde indicate the presence of an anxiety about colonial decline. The analysis of Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde addresses the permeability that existed between fictional, and supposedly 'scientific' notions of the unstable, often hybrid, male subject. The chapter explores how the following British commentators responded to some of the ideas about masculinity and nation: Samuel Smiles, Charles Kingsley, Edwin Lankester and Otto Weininger. Siobhan B. Somerville argues that in sexology racial identifications were mapped on to sexual orientation. This was done so that the 'blackness' or 'whiteness' of a subject was correlated to the levels masculinity or femininity exhibited by the subject.
The Elephant Man, the Hysteric, the Indian and the Doctor
D.G. Halstead in his memoirs, Doctor in The Nineties writes that 'The Elephant Man was the product of one of those ghastly genetic mutations which, once in a million times, results in some science-fictional monster instead of a normal human being'. Sir Frederick Treves's account of Merrick and an imaginary female hysteric emphasises the deficiencies in scientific practice. In his account of Merrick it is the case that models of degeneracy could not be mobilised with any meaningful efficacy. Treves returns to a Gothic idiom in a chapter entitled 'A Restless Night' which employs a range of Gothic images. This includes a projected attack by rats, a murderous assault by a racial Other, and themes of paranoia and entrapment. Merrick is a Gothic monster of masculinity, one who is cured through the imposition of an image of the dandy which feminises and civilises any sexual impulses he may have had.
This chapter discusses the inquest reports and the autopsies of Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride. It also discusses the inquest and autopsy of Martha Tabram who the police believed at the time to be an early victim of the Whitechapel murderer. It explores how the press used elements of the Gothic in their coverage of the murders. Such reportage constructed London as a Gothic place, inhabited by Gothic villains who preyed on prostitutes. The Gothic had influenced the reporting of particularly gruesome murders earlier in the nineteenth century, and the term 'horripilation' was coined to designate such journalism. The chapter also discusses how an examination of the medical profession implicates a particular model of middle-class masculinity. This specific male gaze articulates an anxiety about authority, one which was referenced through images of a threatened medical profession.
Syphilis was a disease and a metaphor for disease at the fin de siecle, both a medical problem and a trope for social and cultural degeneration. At one level Ghosts is a play about hereditary syphilis. Jonathan Hutchinson saw syphilis as amplifying what was an inherent tendency within the male subject to manifest disease. Alfred Cooper's Syphilis develops the view that men should not be specifically identified as the purveyors of the disease because they are also its most frequent victims. Cooper's treatise is marked by a reactionary politics which is partly manifested in his unqualified support for the Contagious Diseases Act. It is by his questioning of a perceived bias which he saw as characterising the disease in earlier medical texts. Max Nordau relocates Henrik Ibsen's conception of syphilis, but in the interests of a conservative politics, and critiques Ibsen by focusing on the mind rather than the body.
This chapter explores how gender issues have influenced the way that London has been read. This helps to locate the Sherlock Holmes tales within a certain cultural narrative, spanning the nineteenth century, of male readings of the city. The chapter moves beyond simply addressing the link between rationality and masculinity in order to explore an alternative, but related drama, which concerns the status and function of London. It also explores Thomas De Quincey's nightmares of London and his construction of an urban sublimity before briefly exploring Charles Dickens's attempt to impose rationality on such threatened urban discord in Bleak House. The chapter examines how Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White stages a debate about gender, identity and the city. Dracula produces a fantasy of a purified London and a purified, non-degenerate masculinity which in the end it does not quite believe in.
This chapter outlines a series of important stances on Oscar Wilde drawn from a range of relevant critics, before giving a close reading of De Profundis, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and Dorian Gray. David Punter mentions that Dorian Gray shares a Gothic context concerning theories of degeneration which includes Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr Moreau and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The chapter discusses Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's arguments about how Wilde relates to Christian notions of the body as fetish. It examines her response to sexological claims as it helps to position Wilde in relation to such theories and also to move him beyond them. Wilde provides an alternative way of challenging models of masculinity, one which draws attention to the provisional nature of masculinity by associating it (like Camp) with an unreal performance.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book explains a range of different knowledges including accounts of masculinity, an understanding of the fin de siecle, the relationship between literature and science, and scholarship on the Gothic. It discusses literary texts and scientific knowledge in culturally contextualised ways. The book also discusses the range of issues and case histories to develop the understanding of the constructions of masculinity during the period. Such constructions, although staged in different literary, quasi-scientific, or strictly medical contexts, are united by a shared concern that the middle-class male had become susceptible to moral decline and physical disease. Robert Louis Stevenson's oxymoron is represented in different ways in all the narratives discussed in the book and its presence provides an insight into the ambivalence with which class power and gender authority was expressed.
the fleshed-out ghost of history, the body comes heavily laden.
Theorised as ideally male by Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, it is
regarded by Foucault as a product of discourse and social construct
which, as Elizabeth Grosz also argues, extends to the biological and
supposedly natural. 13 Andrew Smith in VictorianDemons: Medicine,
Masculinity and the Gothic at the Fin