Date of Award

1995

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jim Springer Borck

Abstract

Previous studies of gender in Byron's Don Juan, such as those by Susan Wolfson and Louis Crompton, have concentrated primarily on identifying gender ambivalence and attributing that ambivalence to factors outside the text, such as Byron's ambivalence toward his personal homoeroticism as well as to the social attitudes of Regency England toward questions of gender ambiguity. In this dissertation, I propose to turn the critical gaze back to the text in order to go beyond identifying gender ambivalence to track how that ambivalence works within Don Juan. In order to bring into focus the serial and episodic nature of Byron's narrative and the consequences that nature has for the presentation of gender, femininity in particular, I look to the theories of Freud and Lacan regarding the oedipus complex and language acquisition. The various episodes of the poem circle around key concerns with the attraction to and the threats from the feminine. In the course of this study, I will look to the narrator's presentation of femininity in the text and give special attention to the simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from the feminine which characterizes its appearance throughout Don Juan. In chapter 2 I look to the narrator's presentation of feminine language in Don Juan to develop an understanding of the narrator's presentation of the feminine through the language of women. In chapter 3 I analyze the different modes of masquerade that the narrator uses both to mask Juan and to control femininity in the text. In chapter 4 I evaluate the undercurrent of violence to masculinity which has appeared in the narrator's presentation of femininity through feminine language and masquerading appearance. While feminine appearance and feminine language can be life affirming and filled with communion and joyful play, the same qualities, by virtue of their attractiveness, can turn in a moment to threaten the men of the narrative with emasculation and annihilation.

Pages

162

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