Shame and futile masculinity: feeling backwards in Henry Mackenzie’s Man of Feeling

Rowland, Michael (2019) Shame and futile masculinity: feeling backwards in Henry Mackenzie’s Man of Feeling. Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 31 (3). pp. 529-548. ISSN 0840-6286

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Eighteenth-century masculinity, despite some important interventions in recent decades, remains an underdeveloped area in literary studies of the period. This essay seeks to redress the balance by reconsidering a now canonical text, the popular sentimental novel The Man of Feeling (1771), in light of the insights that theories of queerness and affect, particularly shame, have to offer to historical studies of masculinity. My argument takes as its starting point the contention that all normative social structures must incorporate, rather than entirely expel, the non-normative in order to function. Engaging with theorists including Lee Edelman and Heather Love, I argue that Harley, the hero of Henry Mackenzie’s novel, should be understood as an embodiment of weak sexualization, a figure who refuses the positive progress of capital accumulation for wilful oblivion. In doing so, the essay provides new ways of thinking through eighteenth-century ideas of masculinity that demonstrate that the queer, the backward, and the weak are integrated within normative con temporary discourses of the masculine, rather than excluded from them.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0441 18th century
Depositing User: Michael Anthony Rowland
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2019 10:48
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2019 10:48
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