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MacDonald, The New Man, Masculinity and Marriage in the Victorian Novel

new man finalBy: Tara MacDonald

The New Man, Masculinity and Marriage in the Victorian Novel (Pickering and Chatto, Gender and Genre series)

This book reads Victorian masculinity, feminist literary history, and the marriage plot through literary representations of the New Man, the male counterpart to the New Woman. The New Man, though derided in the fin de siècle popular press, was imagined as a utopian figure by many New Women writers who saw him as a model of gentle, caring masculinity. This book, the first on the late-Victorian New Man, argues that this figure presented ideological and narrative challenges for Victorian writers who sought to incorporate him into their fiction: not only was his gentleness at odds with definitions of manliness based on professional competitiveness or physical strength, but his inclusion in feminist narratives often reestablished the romance plot and challenged the heroine’s desire for independence.

Though the term ‘New Man’ was not coined until 1894, this study locates earlier examples throughout the Victorian era. In the novels of Charles Dickens, Anne Brontë, and George Eliot, characters are identified who could be classed as prototypes of the New Man. By tracing the rise of the New Man alongside novelistic changes in the representations of marriage, MacDonald shows how this figure encouraged Victorian writers to reassess masculine behaviour and to re-imagine the marriage plot in light of wider social changes.

Available through Pickering and Chatto

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