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Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature

Queering Patriarchy

Helena Gurfinkel

Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy traces the representations of outlaw fathers, or queer patriarchs, and their relationships with their queer sons, in a particular literary tradition: mid-to-late-Victorian and twentieth-century British fiction and memoir. Specifically, I look at such representations in Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne (1858) and The Prime Minister (1875-76) (while also drawing on An Autobiography (1883) and The Duke’s Children (1880)); Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh (published in 1901), Henry James’s “The Lesson of the Master” (1888), J. R. Ackerley’s My Father and Myself (written in the 1930s and published in 1968), E. M. Forster’s “Little Imber” (1961) (with an occasional detour into The Longest Journey (1907), Howards End (1909), and Maurice (published in 1971)), and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Spell (1998). In the coda, I consider the implications of including transgender, transnational female-to-male fathers of color in the ranks of queer patriarchy and discuss two contemporary novels, Jackie Kay’s Trumpet (1998, Scotland) and Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda (1998, Jamaica and the United States), as well as—briefly—an episode an episode of the television show The L-Word (2008) and the documentary U-People (2007).

The term “queer patriarchy” has two components. The first one is a non-traditional, primarily—but not exclusively—non-heterosexual, pervasively present, and culturally important, paternal subjectivity. The second one is the bond between such queer paternal figures and their sons, biological and non-biological. This study pays attention primarily to the relationship between psyche, language, and ideology, but it will join a larger conversation about the changing roles of men in general and fathers in particular, which is taking place outside of the field of literary studies.
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University Press Copublishing Division / Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Pages: 236Size: 6 x 9
978-1-61147-637-8 • Hardback • March 2014 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-68393-070-9 • Paperback • February 2017 • $44.99 • (£29.95)
978-1-61147-638-5 • eBook • March 2014 • $41.99 • (£27.95)
Helena Gurfinkel is associate professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

List of Illustrations
Introduction: From the Law of the Father to the Outlaw Father
Chapter I: Theoretical Genealogies
The “Negative” Oedipus: Origins and Interpretations
Theoretical Mothers
Psychoanalysis, History, Materiality
Fathers, Others, and Lacan
Queer family, Queer Negativity, Queer Sociality
Chapter II: “The Intercourse between the Squire and His Son”: The Father-Son Marriage Plot and the Creation of the English Gentleman in Anthony Trollope’s Novels
Gentlemanliness and Masculinity
An Autobiography of the Wolf Man: Trollope and Freud
Fathers and Sons: The Queer Marriage Plot of
Doctor Thorne
“The Great Wharton Alliance”: The Redemption of Queer Patriarchy in
The Prime Minister
“His Word…Had Never Lost Its Authority”: Upward Mobility and the Return of the Positive Oedipus
Chapter III: Sons as Lovers: Queer
Kunstlerroman in Samuel Butler’s The Wayof All Flesh, Henry James’s “The Lesson of the Master,” and J.R. Ackerley’s My Father and Myself
“Freud Had Got Away with More than I Intended”: Queer
Künstlerroman and Psychoanalysis
“The Dark Scowl, Which Would Come over His Father’s Face”: Samuel Butler’s Masochistic
“…You Should Do Me”: Passing and Submission in Henry James’s “The Lesson of the Master”
“This So-Called Memoir, Which Remembers So Little”: J. R. Ackerley’s Marginal Modernist Portrait of an Artist
Chapter IV: “A Father’s Place Is in the Kitchen, Dear”: Male Domesticity and Motherhood in E.M. Forster’s “Little Imber” and Alan Hollinghurst’s
The Spell
“The Gay Daddy”: Psychoanalysis and Gay Male Parenthood
“Males Had Won”: Sexual Utopia in “Little Imber”
Building Theoretical Structures: Gender, Architecture, Psychoanalysis
From Cottaging to “Love in a Cottage:” Gay Male Domesticity in
The Spell
Banished from the Father’s House: The Dark Side of Domesticity
Gay Male Motherhood and Contemporary Anti-Procreative Anti-Utopias
Coda: “The P-Word”: Queer Patriarchy beyond Maleness and Nation
The Phallus and the Ship: Diasporic Patriarchy and the Transgender Father of Color
About the Author
Gurfinkel . . . demonstrates convincingly that both the figure of the patriarch, and also academic considerations of patriarchy, need to be expanded beyond the notion of male oppression and hostility. In light of her work, the networks of lineage that construct patriarchal relationships can now also be conceived as nurturing, emotional and positive. Yet perhaps most significantly, Gurfinkel’s analysis of late-Victorian and twentieth-century literature also has the effect of making patriarchy a relevant consideration in the twenty-first century, in which the notion of the family is changing rapidly and conventional patriarchs may seem few and far between. . . .Gurfinkel’s work offers a paradigm that can help us understand the Anglo-American present, as well as analyze the British literary past.
Edwardian Culture Network

Helena Gurfinkel offers an insightful new vision of fatherhood through an engagement with English literature, Freudian psychoanalysis and queer theory. . . .Moreover the core theoretical approaches, for example Freud’s theory of the negative Oedipus, are presented in an accessible opening chapter. . . .The book will appeal to both students of literature and critical theory scholars.
New Books Network

Gurfinkel has done thorough research, strongly grounding her argument in the foundational texts of psychoanalysis, queer studies, and masculinity studies. . . .This [is a] thought-provoking and ambitious book, which scholars in the various disciplines it draws on will find a useful contribution to their fields.
English Literature In Transition 1880-1920

…[A] considerable work of scholarship…Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy represents an admirable attempt to undertake a dialogue with psychoanalysis around issues of patriarchy and maleness…illuminate[s] aspects of the Victorian novel (and its historical struggle with class and gender) and of psychoanalytic theory (to some extent another reaction to the same historical forces) and argue[s] against any essentialist reduction of the multilevel realities within each to rigid forms and precepts.
Lewis Allen Kirshner, clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Outlaw Fathers delights by shattering paradigms. Employing the negative Oedipus complex, Gurfinkel challenges our easy definition of patriarchy by uncovering the queer patriarchy of queer fathers and sons [and] enlarges the category of the marriage plot by adding to the heteronormative definition a canon of queer marriage plots from Anthony Trollope through Samuel Butler to Alan Hollinghurst. This severing of masculinity from aggression and toward nurturing is especially valuable as we see the rise of gay marriage and gay parenting.
Herbert Sussman, emeritus professor of English at Northeastern University

In Outlaw Fathers, Helena Gurfinkel is doing subtly audacious work at the intersection of queer theory and Victorian and modernist studies. In a series of lucidly argued readings of important nineteenth- and twentieth-century British texts, she shows how they elaborate, against the dominant narratives of the Oedipus complex and the marriage plot, the queerer narratives of the negative Oedipus complex and the father-son marriage plot. But she does not just reveal this literary counter-tradition: against a certain hostility toward Freud in Foucauldian queer theory, she contributes incisively and elegantly to a theoretical counter-tradition that, seeing Freud himself as an outlaw father, realizes the queer possibilities of psychoanalysis.
Joseph Litvak, professor and chair of the Department of English at Tufts University