By Martin A. Danahay
Complementing contemporary feminist reviews of girl self-representation, this ebook examines the dynamics of masculine self-representation in nineteenth-century British literature. Arguing that the class "autobiography" used to be a made from nineteenth-century individualism, the writer analyzes the dependence of the nineteenth-century masculine topic on autonomy or self-naming because the prerequisite for the composition of a lifestyles background. The masculine autobiographer achieves this autonomy through the use of a feminized different as a metaphorical replicate for the self. The feminized different in those texts represents the social price of masculine autobiography. Authors from Wordsworth to Arnold, together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, John Ruskin, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Stuart Mill, and Edmund Gosse, use woman enthusiasts and relations as symbols for the neighborhood with which they suppose they've got misplaced touch. within the theoretical creation, the writer argues that those texts really privilege the self sufficient self over the photographs of group they ostensibly price, developing within the procedure a self-enclosed and self-referential "community of one."
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Extra resources for A Community of One: Masculine Autobiography and Autonomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Arnold both inherited and attempted to repress his Romantic autobiographical legacy in his poetry, particularly the influence of Wordsworth. In criticizing the autobiographical "dialogue of the mind with itself," Arnold is apparently repressing what he views as dangerously solipsistic tendencies in both his Romantic forebears and his own writing. I say "apparently" because Arnold's self-repression in his preface actually helped construct the very subjectivity he is criticizing. Far from escaping the dialogue of the mind with itself, Matthew Arnold, in his poetry and prose, is actually centrally concerned with the construction of his own subjectivity, even as he overtly represses self-consciousness.
In both cases the attempt by the male protagonist to create a self-sufficient, autonomous self leads to the destruction of social bonds. Both texts therefore are critiques of individualism and of autobiography as an individualist enterprise. Both texts suggest that the severing of the individual from the community leads to the destruction of the self. Nineteenth-century writers were well aware of the unsettling effect of the ideal of the autonomous self, and all register in differing ways the effects of what they saw as the tension between the competing claims of the individual and the social.
As Du Pont and Rousseau show, individualism as a philosophy developed more quickly in France than in England. The French word autobiographie and the first autobiography in French, Rousseau's Confessions in 1782, predate the use of the term in English and the composition of Wordsworth's Prelude by fifteen years. 9 The same transformation took place in England as in France, but occurred later. When it did occur, this transformation was deeply marked from its inception by a conservative reaction against the French Revolution in particular and social upheaval in general.
A Community of One: Masculine Autobiography and Autonomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Martin A. Danahay