The Crisis of Masculine Space: the End of the Gentlemen's Club in British Modern Fiction
Edwards, Leslie Gautreaux
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At the beginning of the twentieth century, men occupied a contested and transitional space in British society. The effects of the women's movement, the Great War, and industrialization changed their life at home, at work, and at their places of recreation. This dissertation examines how the British male writers E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, and George Orwell depict this "crisis of masculinity" and its effect on the male population. I argue that one of the ways the writers convey their understanding of the changing gender codes and the ways in which men were attempting to manage the adjustments to their daily lives is through the description and purpose that they attach to masculine spaces. These three threshold writers occupy an important place in the canon of British modern literature. They all are a part of a masculine literary tradition that privileges male bonding and additionally rituals that seek to reinforce and carry on the patriarchal narrative of men to distinguish between homosocial male bonding and patriarchal privilege (which is heterosexually based). While Forster demonstrates the gender tension between men and women in the exclusive masculine spaces of the text, Lawrence characterizes masculine private space as a site for healing and revitalization for men after the war, and Orwell describes underground male spaces as sites where men can prove their masculinity by enduring intense suffering from pain that is inflicted by the work that they perform. In each chapter, I demonstrate that understanding masculine spaces provides a more complete understanding of each writer's masculine paradigm in literature and to some extent gives us a new way of thinking about the author and his own gender insecurities. Whether it is the swimming hole or the automobile, the smoking room or the dining room, the battlefield war trench or the coal mine, the domestic and public spaces of male life are under siege in the modern era, according to Forster, Lawrence, and Orwell. In order to preserve and sustain the rites and traditions that are upheld in those settings, the writers remind readers about the genealogy of men that reinforces the necessity of male space in hopes of preserving it for future generations.