"The way a man does do things" : epic masculinity, grand narrative and ideological discourse in selected twentieth century novels

MacLeod, Lewis (2002) "The way a man does do things" : epic masculinity, grand narrative and ideological discourse in selected twentieth century novels. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This study posits a complex set of interrelationships between narrativity, epic masculine images, and ideologically motivated critical practices. Focusing on the work of Evelyn Waugh, Sam Selvon, Paule Marshall, and J.M. Coetzee, the project examines the degree to which idealized visions of masculinity and manhood operate as "grand narratives," epic story-structures which frame the individual's consciousness and override his ability to perceive, and undermine his ability to operate productively in, the "real" world. The study places consistent emphasis on the degree to which the world of stories can become more meaningful and more influential than any kind of direct experience, the degree to which characters come to live inside distinct story worlds. Inherent in such an approach is an acknowledgment of the slippage between ontological categories like "real" and "imaginary." The study frequently considers pervasive narrative structures as real things by virtue of the force they seem to wield, while at the same time considering certain real experiences and opportunities as ontologically deficient by virtue of the force they seem to lack. -- As a study of masculinity, this project focuses on several masculine signposts and establishes relationships between particular masculine benchmarks and particular narrative forces. Different masculine imperatives are viewed in terms of some relationship to the "storied" figure of the Ideal Man. The first chapter addresses the icon of the gentleman soldier relative to Waugh's war trilogy. Sword of Honour The second addresses Selvon's Moses trilogy, emphasizing the connection between the masculine impulse for sexual conquest, and some corresponding anxieties about material prosperity and public visibility. The third deals with Marshall's novels, Brown Girl, Brownstones and Praisesong for the Widow, highlighting the emotional stasis that seems to accompany any masculine acceptance of the traditional of "Breadwinner." The fourth chapter, addressing Coetzee’s Foe and The Master of Petersburg, engages Coetzee’s complex treatment of the anxieties associated with the father's role, as "begetter," in the life some type of offspring. -- The investigation of ideological critical practices (in particular certain practices in postcolonial and feminist thinking) takes place in every chapter, and extends the examination of unproductive grand narratives to include critical approaches which adhere too rigidly to the "storylines" stipulated by particular critical discourses. The study posits a close relationship between the delusions (generated by stories) that trouble particular characters in the selected novels, and the shortcomings (generated by discourse) of particular critical approaches, and suggests that any overdeveloped adherence to the plot of any type of grand narrative debilitates the individual's ability to productively perceive his or her surroundings, literal or literary. Close attention is paid to the current shortcomings in the critical oeuvre of each author to demonstrate this point. In every case, the preoccupations of some critical discourse seem to have obscured, if not outright overlooked, certain key aspects of the literary text, aspects which seem obvious when the text is viewed from outside the grand narrative of the ideological critical apparatus.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5471
Item ID: 5471
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 322-336.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2002
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Masculinity in literature; Postcolonialism and the arts; Feminist literary criticism

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