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Masculinism in Twentieth-Century Literature: Dissidence and Dissemblance in André Gide’s The Immoralist, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater

Smith, Amanda Emanuel

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Although masculinist literature may appear to be about masculinity as such or often explicit articulations of male carnality or even crudeness, it is actually about the use of masculinity, or gender performance, and prurience as rebellion; it is a means to undercut a sexually sublimating, artistically stifling system of values whose primary aim is to erect unseen, virtually undetectable, impediments to freedom. Masculinism is about man shackled by invisible but palpable chains, trying not only to break free, but to be free. At first glance, there is little revelatory in this abbreviated definition; in fact, the very attention given the implied man in masculinism seems overtly patriarchal, dated. But, man first needed to be centered in order to be decentered; masculinism knows this. If the prominence of man seems archaic, it is of course because it is. This is why this definition of masculinism belongs if not in then to the twentieth century: it is indicative of a timespan that experienced the continued eminence of man with his connotations of strength, virility, and savvy; but, it is also indicative of an era that felt first the rise of woman in particular, then otherness in general. The precariousness of ‘man’s moment’ accounts for the palpable angst of masculinist literature; there is a feeling of being ousted, an impulse to retreat.

This dissertation ruminates the implications of three masculinist texts, The Immoralist, Lolita and Sabbath’s Theater, and the reverberations of each of these protagonist’s actions. It does so under the impression that art is never for art’s sake alone. It does so knowing there is something to be learned from these characters, not because they are human, real, but because they are not. They are shown as the manifestations, the distillations, of man’s hopes and fears, but, most importantly, his surrender. For they are the last stand against the post-gendered, pan-sexual society that they have unwittingly helped to create. And they, the masculinist (anti-)heroes of masculinist literature, are raising the white flag, as they, with all their (post)modern angst and alienation, submit to and usher in a new literary era centered on cultural pluralism.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Herbrechter, PD Dr. Stefan
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 9 July 2020
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2020 05:34
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: Neuphilologische Fakultät > Anglistisches Seminar
Subjects: 100 Philosophy
300 Social sciences
370 Education
420 English
440 Romance languages French
800 Literature and rhetoric
810 American literature in English
820 English and Old English literatures
840 Literatures of Romance languages
Controlled Keywords: masculinity, literature, gender

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  • Masculinism in Twentieth-Century Literature: Dissidence and Dissemblance in André Gide’s The Immoralist, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater. (deposited 05 Aug 2020 05:34) [Currently Displayed]
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