Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Sean Dempsey

Committee Member

William Quinn

Second Committee Member

Lyssette Szwydky-Davis

Abstract

“Dandy as Disease: Gender Hygiene and British Nineteenth-century Literature” explores the link between the nineteenth-century dandy, ideas of hegemonic masculinity, and Walter Besant’s The Revolt of Man, a dystopian text in which women have usurped all traditionally-masculine roles, while men are the caretakers and manual workers. The first chapter deals with the historical role of the dandy in the nineteenth-century and how he might be viewed as the cause of the fall of Britain. The second chapter revolves around Besant’s novel, exploring how men are shown to be at fault for Britain’s fall in the eyes of the rest of the world. Their failure in performing hegemonic masculinity has led to the destruction of all that made Britain great in the nineteenth century, as they allowed women to trample on all her accomplishments. Besant’s proposes it is the dandy that is the one required to revolt and take back his “divinely appointed” role as a figure of authority in Parliament, education, and the church, restoring Britain to greatness. Finally, the third chapter looks at how children’s literature took up the same chant for a return to hegemonic ideas of masculinity through the plethora of gendered periodicals that instructed boys how to grow up to be paragons of manliness, while girls were instructed in how to be happy within the home, taking care of children. I conclude the entire thesis by examining how the same rhetoric that calls for a return to hegemonic masculinity in the nineteenth century is found in the twenty-first century as a response to the rise of the metrosexual, who is portrayed as fulfilling the same role now as the dandy did in the past. I hope to show how the anxieties of the nineteenth century have not been quieted, even after more than one-hundred years, and the fears found in a novel like The Revolt of Man are accepted by some sections of society as still relevant today. I hope to show how Besant’s novel is as timely to consider now as when it was published.

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