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'The world is oppressed by masculinity' : masculine containment of women and transgressions in the works of Wilkie Collins

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posted on 15.12.2014, 10:44 by Susan Anne. Jordan
This thesis argues that Wilkie Collins demanded radical reassessment of his culture through his writing and anticipated post-modern theories of discourse, identity and gender. It will propose that Collins perceived reality as a linguistic creation, gender as a destructive evasion and truth as an elusive desire. Collins' fiction will be seen as palimpsestic narratives which, through buried texts and sub-texts, embrace a Conradian heart of darkness and pursue a non-teleological format.;I will particularly focus upon the later novels which I believe have been long neglected and undeservedly disparaged. However, this work will pursue a thematic rather than chronological approach and will study the dominant issues of discourses which fascinated Collins throughout his career. The argument will utilise Foucauldian and Lacanian philosophies and will demonstrate how Collins perceived social systems and hegemonic utterances as terrified partriarchal defences against the primordial chaos which haunted his imagination and characters.;I will specifically focus upon issues of gender and demonstrate how discourses of masculinity, both modern and Victorian, stunt individual development, suffocate women, warp human relations and ultimately destroy men themselves.;The first chapter will explore this theoretical base and introduce the various concepts of masculinity and the chief discussions pertinent to gender constructs utilised in this thesis. Within each chapter I will examine the irreparable damage inflicted upon femininity and marginalised others by masculinity and the fear and loss endured by men themselves. Collins was, however, a white, middle-class, heterosexual man who benefited from the very tenets he despised and I will thus explore the inevitable tensions this generated throughout his work.;I will reveal how the secret or truth, central to each novel, transpires to be this very phallocentric abuse and oppression and the revelation of the fragility and destructiveness of gender constructs themselves. And in exposing this Collins necessarily underscored the limits and inadequacies of language itself thus undermining the very essence of his own productivity.


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Victorian Studies

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University of Leicester

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