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Exquisite MasochismIncludes the chapter The Grasp of Wuthering Heights.
Marriage, Sex, and the Novel Form
John Hopkins University Press
How did realist novelists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries hint at sex while maintaining a safe distance from pornography? Metaphors helped: waves, oceans, blooms, and illuminations were all deployed in respectable realist novels to allude to the sexual act, allowing writers to portray companionate marriage while avoiding graphic description. But in Exquisite Masochism, Claire Jarvis argues that some Victorian novelists went even further, pushing formal boundaries by slyly developing scenes of displaced erotic desire to suggest impropriety, perversion, and danger.
Through close readings of canonical works by Emily Brontë, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, and a modernist outlier, D. H. Lawrence, Jarvis reveals how writers’ varied use of specific character types—the dominant woman and the submissive man—in conjunction with decadent, descriptive scenes of sexual refusal creates a strong counter-narrative hinting at relationships beyond patriarchal and companionate marriage structures. By focusing on the exquisitely masochistic pleasure brought about by freezing, or suspending, the sexual charge, and by depicting quasi-contractual states on the periphery of marriage, including engagement, adultery, and widowhood, novelists disrupted the marriage plot’s insistence that erotic drives remain unfulfilled and that sexual connection could be satisfied only by genital act.
Complicating our understanding of Victorian marriage ideology’s more well-trodden focus on a productive, nation-building ideal, Exquisite Masochism offers fascinating insight into our own culture’s debates around illicit sexuality, marriage, reproduction, and feminism.
The Submerged Plot and the Mother's Pleasure from Jane Austen to Arundhati Roy
Kelly A. Marsh
Ohio State University Press
In The Submerged Plot and the Mother’s Pleasure from Jane Austen to Arundhati Roy, Kelly A. Marsh examines the familiar, overt plot of the motherless daughter growing into maturity and argues that it is accompanied by a covert plot. Marsh’s insightful analyses of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Anglophone novels reveal that these novels are far richer and more complexly layered than the overt plot alone suggests. According to Marsh, as the daughter approaches adulthood and marriage, she seeks validation for her pleasure in her mother’s story. However, because the mother’s pleasure is taboo under patriarchy and is therefore unnarratable, the daughter must seek her mother’s story by repeating it. These repetitions alert us to the ways the two plots are intertwined and alter our perception of the narrative progression.
Combining feminist and rhetorical narratological approaches, Marsh’s study offers fresh readings of Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Bleak House, The Woman in White, The House of Mirth, The Last September, The Color Purple, A Thousand Acres, Bastard Out of Carolina, Talking to the Dead, and The God of Small Things. Through these readings, The Submerged Plot and the Mother’s Pleasure explores how the unnarratable can be communicated in fiction and offers a significant contribution to our understanding of narrative progression.
Includes the chapter The Submerged Plot and the Interrelation of Progression and Character: Persuasion and Jane Eyre.