Power and Masculine Anxiety in Late Eighteenth-century British Narratives: How British Men Reconstru (BOK)
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This is a new scholarly contribution to eighteenth-century British literature and studies reflecting changing gender roles through examination of the behavior of male characters and their social evolution in British Society before and during the Age of Reason. By examining narratives from the eighteenth-century, it is evident that anxieties about the "Cult of Sensibility" are a response to the tensions of weighing the value of sentiment and rationality. Indeed, oppositions between older positions of masculine authority and newer constructs of "the man of feeling" are often portrayed in eighteenth-century narratives as an on-going project, highlighting the unstable and internally fractured nature of masculinity. While part of sensibility's intent is to reject old patriarchal traditions, in many works, like the ones analysed in this study, masculine anxieties ultimately lead towards a reasserted masculine authority. It seems even men who are sympathetic to sensibility's cause are reluctant to embrace a shift that could erode gender distinctions. Traceable in much of the writing of the period, like the novels of Smollett, Sterne, the journals of Boswell, this anxiety takes a variety of forms, leading both to the dramatic success of the sentimental movement and ultimately to its strange conversion in the "excessive" gothic novels of Beckford and Walpole at century's end.