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Disciplining Love

Austen and the Modern Man

Michael Kramp

“The . . . theory is provocative, even controversial, especially in its reading of favorite characters like Darcy, but this aspect of the book is what makes it a useful contribution in the related fields of cultural studies, masculinity, and sexuality.” —Choice

Disciplining Love is a fascinating, provocative, and highly readable book. It provides fine close readings of Austen’s men as men. Copious references to the male characters featured in the fiction of Austen’s contemporaries also make the book indispensable. Michael Kramp’s analysis of early modern masculinity allows us to see the ways in which Austen follows—not just how she radically departs from—those who came before her. Disciplining Love is beautifully written and deserves a wide audience.” —Devoney Looser, associate professor of English, University of Missouri-Columbia

The years following the French Revolution fostered a period of cultural instability in England. This cultural instability led to the dynamic developments in sexual identity and gender relationships that we can observe in the novels of Jane Austen. While numerous scholars have intelligently taken up the topic of Austen’s women and the social construction of femininity in her narratives, the issues both of Austen’s men and of the social function of masculinity remain relatively under-discussed. In Disciplining Love, Michael Kramp offers a fresh perspective on the dynamic function of gender, love, and desire in the novels of Austen, initiating a new direction in the study of the early-nineteenth-century novelist by employing the theoretical writings of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault to read Austen’s corpus.

As the power and legitimacy of the aristocratic man waned, England had to turn to the bodies and the potential of new men from emerging classes and families. These men, however, had to be taught how to be proper male subjects in the modernizing world; most importantly, they had to be instructed to discipline their susceptibility to sexual desire and amorous emotions in order to maintain the hegemonic role of masculinity. In the modern nation of the nineteenth century, men who remained liable to love and desire ran the risk of becoming vulnerable to irrational passions and experiences. Such passions and experiences were simply not compatible with the post-Revolutionary English society that encouraged individuals to maximize utility and become industrious, and that required them to retain rational individuality.

Michael Kramp is associate professor of English and director of Cultural Studies at the University of Northern Colorado.

Feb 2007
Literary criticism/British
202 pp. 6x9

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