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Seduction rhetoric, masculinity, and homoeroticism in Wilde, Gide, Stoker, and Forster
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation employs the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche in order to analyze the role of the "rhetoric of seduction" in masculine self-identifications and in transformations of the meaning of masculinity between 1890 and 1918. Seduction is understood as simultaneously a process of disrupting the subject's illusion of a stable masculine identity and a process through which that illusion is regained and sustained. Chapter 1 discusses the competing discourses of corruption and the Platonic model of male bonding in the Oscar Wilde trials and the unstable boundary between self-development and influence in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Chapter 2 focuses on Andre Gide's construction of an "authentic," masculine homosexual identity in his memoir If It Die and in The Immoralist, arguing that such an identity necessarily contains the impulse of its own internal disintegration. Chapter 3 argues that the vampire in Bram Stoker's Dracula resembles the psychoanalyst in facilitating the subject's access to his unconscious but also serving the subject's retreat within the boundaries of a stable ego formation. Finally, Chapter 4 explores E. M. Forster's Maurice as an account of the development of a masculinity appropriate for a "liberal individualist," through an emphasis on the role of sexuality and personal relationships in Forster's political vision.
Comparative literature; Romance literature; English literature