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The Fragility of Manhood

Hawthorne, Freud, and the Politics of Gender

David Greven

Publication Year: 2012

Merging psychoanalytic and queer theory perspectives, The Fragility of Manhood: Hawthorne, Freud, and the Politics of Gender reframes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work as a critique of the normative construction of American male identity. Revising Freudian and Lacanian literary theory and establishing the concepts of narcissism and the gaze as central, David Greven argues that Hawthorne represents normative masculinity as fundamentally dependent on the image. In ways that provocatively intersect with psychoanalytic theory, Hawthorne depicts subjectivity as identification with an illusory and deceptive image of wholeness and unity. As Hawthorne limns it, male narcissism both defines and decenters male heterosexual authority. Moreover, in Greven’s view, Hawthorne critiques hegemonic manhood’s recourse to domination as a symptom of the traumatic instabilities at the core of traditional models of male identity. Hawthorne’s representation of masculinity as psychically fragile has powerful implications for his depictions of female and queer subjectivity in works such as the tales “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and “The Gentle Boy,” the novel The Blithedale Romance, and Hawthorne’s critically neglected late, unfinished writings, such as Septimius Felton. Rereading Freud from a queer theory perspective, Greven reframes Freudian theory as a radical critique of traditional models of gender subjectivity that has fascinating overlaps with Hawthorne’s work. In the chapter “Visual Identity,” Greven also discusses the agonistic relationship between Hawthorne and Herman Melville and the intersection of queer themes, Hellenism, and classical art in their travel writings, The Marble Faun, and Billy Budd.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

It took more than one Hawthorne conference to turn me into the author of this book. Numerous scholars have nurtured and emboldened my work on Hawthorne. While many deserve acknowledgment here, I especially want to thank, for early and generous encouragement, Robert K. Martin, Millicent Bell, Nina Baym, ...

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Introduction: The Paradox of Desire

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pp. 1-23

A young man stares into a pool and sees his own reflection. At first, his reflection appears to be another person, endowed with great beauty. Enflamed with desire, the young man reaches out to the image in the pool, which dissolves at his touch. ...

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1. Paradise Lost: Hawthorne’s Traumatic Narcissism

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pp. 24-39

The chief claim of this book is that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work consistently evokes the core themes of the Narcissus myth: a beautiful young man whose beauty incites desire from both females and other males and whose cruel rejection of those in whom he has inflamed desire inflames a desire for vengeance in them; ...

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2. As His Mother Loved Him: “The Gentle Boy” and Freud’s Theory of Male Homosexuality

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pp. 40-68

To commence our exploration of the intersection of Freudian theories of narcissistic male sexuality and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fiction, I begin with a discussion of the most difficult aspect of Freud’s theory of narcissism, its centrality in Freud’s understanding of male homosexuality.1 ...

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3. Revising the Oedipal Hawthorne: Criticism and the Forms of Narcissism

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pp. 69-90

In addition to reorienting the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissism and homosexuality, one of the chief goals of this book is to demonstrate why psychoanalytic theory, albeit significantly revised, remains useful for questions of gender and sexuality, male embodiments of both especially. ...

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4. Struck by the Mask: Narcissism, Shame, Masculinity, and the Dread of the Visual

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pp. 91-113

In chapter 2, I suggested that Hawthorne identified with the gentle boy, an identification that stems from his experience of shame. It is important to establish the cultural as well as psychological contexts for why Hawthorne may have associated shame with the feminine beauty of his Narcissus-like males, a quality that he personally embodied. ...

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5. In a Pig’s Eye: Masculinity, Mastery, and the Returned Gaze of The Blithedale Romance

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pp. 114-140

With its erotic themes, obsession with law and conformity, and fascination with their psychic effects, Hawthorne’s work provides an interesting opportunity to consider the ways in which narcissism and voyeurism imbricate one another. In Hawthorne’s 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance, both modes coalesce in Blithedale’s “amorous New World,” ...

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6. The Gaze in the Garden: Femininity, Fetishism, and Tradition in “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

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pp. 141-179

Though my focus has thus far been on Hawthorne’s representation of manhood, narcissism, especially in its anguished aspects, also informs Hawthorne’s considerable interest in the representation of women, a set of issues that demand a discrete study. No more harrowing and exact transmutation of Hawthorne’s anguish over vision exists than the spectacle of Hester Prynne on the scaffold, ...

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7. Visual Identity: Hawthorne, Melville, and Classical Male Beauty

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pp. 180-209

In the previous chapter, I began to explore homoerotic Hellenism and its significance to Hawthorne’s work. This topic will be central to chapter 7 along with a comparison that has been hovering, with a certain persistence, as a possibility over my critical narrative. ...

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8. A Certain Dark Beauty: Narcissism, Form, and Race in Hawthorne’s Late Work

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pp. 210-242

In the previous chapter, I considered the overlaps between Hawthorne’s and Herman Melville’s treatments of classical male beauty. In this chapter, I will consider a theme that has lurked throughout this study as well as Hawthorne’s work. The darkness of Hawthorne’s young American men is a gender metaphor and a sexual metaphor. ...

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9. The Haunted Verge: Aesthetics, Desire, History

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pp. 243-254

Having been absorbed throughout this book with questions of gender and sexuality, I want to take the opportunity provided by the epilogue to consider other ways in which Hawthorne thematized narcissism: first, in his aesthetic theory; second, in his idiosyncratic theorization of history. ...


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pp. 255-291


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pp. 292-305


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pp. 306-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270332
E-ISBN-10: 0814270336
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212004
Print-ISBN-10: 081421200X

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2012