Narrative, Gender, and Masquerade in the American Novel, 1853-1920
AuthorJessee, Margaret Jay
William Dean Howells
American Novel of Manners
AdvisorZwinger, Lynda M.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoDissertation Not Available (per Author's Request) / University of Arizona affiliates can find this item in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database
AbstractNarrative, Gender, and Masquerade tracks the way the American novel of manners structures itself on representations of a pair of purportedly opposite and opposing women, the fair, innocent girl and the dark, tempting seductress. This opposition increasingly merges into sameness even as the novel in which it appears labors to keep the two characters separate in order to stabilize its textual architecture of thematic and formal binaries. Presenting itself as a text closely related to a social reality, the American novel of manners is structured as a masquerade: purporting to reveal as it conceals, conjuring readerly doubt as to the nature of both mask and reality. There are two main theoretical traditions in the study of masquerade. The first, the anthropologically-inflected cultural and literary historical approach to masks and masquerade, typically is applied to literary texts to explain religious and political historical exigencies as reflected in a given work of literature. The second, the psychoanalically-based theory of femininity as a masquerade, is most often deployed to use the text as a means of explaining the male gaze, desire, and gender performance. My reading of the American novel as gendered rests on dissolving the disciplinary borders between the two, thereby focusing reading on the form of the novel as well as its relation to its cultural, historical, and literary context. The novels I analyze situate women into stereotypical binary roles of the virgin and the seductress. These narratives register a duality between reality and representation that is analogous to the gender masking the novels take as their theme.
Degree ProgramGraduate College