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'On aurait pensé que la nature s'était trompée en leur donnant leurs sexes' : masculine malaise, gender indeterminacy and sexual ambiguity in July Monarchy narratives

Crahay, Geraldine (2015) 'On aurait pensé que la nature s'était trompée en leur donnant leurs sexes' : masculine malaise, gender indeterminacy and sexual ambiguity in July Monarchy narratives. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Abstract

The July Monarchy period (1830‒48) in France was characterised by numerous political, economic and social changes, which challenged sexual and gender categories, as well as traditional representations of masculinity. As such, they generated anxiety among young men from the middle and upper classes regarding their social role. This malaise was exacerbated by the fact that these men entering adulthood in the 1830s defined their gendered identity in comparison to the unattainable model of virility of the Napoleonic soldier. This thesis argues that July Monarchy literary texts, as well as scientific texts, mirror this masculine malaise and question the sexual dichotomy through the representation of hermaphrodites, effeminate and hyper-masculine men, and masculine women. These sexually ambiguous characters reveal writers’ ambiguous treatment of such a malaise. On the one hand, writers often acknowledge the necessity of a separation of the sexes that supports the gendered division of social roles. Their conservative position is notably shown by the negative depiction of young men as weak, puerile and suspected of homosexuality. On the other hand, however, they question the organisation of July Monarchy bourgeois society and highlight the social flaws that lead to young men’s failure. More significantly, many narratives display alternative gendered models, in which feminine qualities in men favour the regeneration of social order. The archetype of these characters combining masculine and feminine qualities is the figure of the hermaphrodite, who is portrayed as a monster and as an incarnation of ideal beauty. The medium of art is used to counterbalance the sexual dichotomy and transcend homosexuality. In short, this thesis argues that hermaphroditic characters are used in July Monarchy narratives as a means to critique the sexual and gender organisation of society and the subsequent masculine malaise.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Arts and Humanities > School of Modern Languages
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2016 08:50
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2016 08:50
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/6404
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