Type of Document Thesis Author Gomez, Elena-Juliette URN etd-11202004-105604 Title Sexuality, Aesthetics, and Punishment in the Libertine Novel Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Barry Faulk Committee Chair Karen Laughlin Committee Member William Cloonan Committee Member Keywords
- Epistolary Novel
- Discourse of Sexuality
Date of Defense 2004-11-04 Availability unrestricted AbstractMy thesis charts the progression of the discourse of sexuality through the genre of the epistolary novel beginning in the 18th century and ending in the 20th century. The first libertine work to be analyzed in this context is Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses which presents two rakes, one male and one female: The Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil. Liaisons presents a perfect example of Michel Foucault's model described in the History of Sexuality which shows a repressed society that will not discourse on sexuality but instead writes about it. Even the rake figures fall into the trap of while adopting a different code, still being bound and oppressed by that code, and when it is not followed the punishment that follows, because of their internalization of that code, is severe.
While still adhering to discipline through surveillance and self-policing, Diary of the Seducer, written by Soren Kierkegaard, modifies the discourse of sexuality by introducing first an aesthetic rake, who is not solely pleasure-seeking, as the rakes in Liaisons appear to be, but is instead interested in the reflective and introspective analysis of his seductions. This innovation of the libertine figure is coupled with the further innovation of a seducer who not only discourses with his victim through the written word, but likewise discourses with himself. Johannes does not need or want an audience before which to rehearse his sexuality and perform theatrically the way Valmont and Merteuil must do. He does not want a confidante or audience and thus turns to his journal to catalogue his conquests and returns time and time again to those seductions to learn how he was able to change his victim and how his victim changes him. Johannes chooses to live outside of society's rules and codes by living in the world of the imaginary searching for the "interesting," but he stagnates in his search and does not reach a higher plane of development and that is his ultimate punishment.
Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, takes the discourse of sexuality in a completely different direction by introducing the aspect of "illegitimate sexualities" through his alleged homosexuality and then dismissing that as not being important to his discussion at all. What is more important to him is his redefining of values and determining what is truly "criminal" and "sinful." He finds that the crime he is guilty of and deserves punishment for is his crime against Art. Wilde finds that his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) was an un-intellectual friendship that resulted in his being unable to work or create. His relations with Bosie also affected his ethics negatively and thus in that sense is deserving of punishment. The punishment cycle here transitions away from a society of surveillance and self-discipline with internalized guilt and codes, to one of prison reform. However, Wilde, while a true example of prison reform in one sense, creates a counter-discourse through his work, by arriving at a conclusion much different than the one society would deem appropriate. Wilde does use his solitary confinement as he should in that he confronts his conscience and examines his sins. However, he does not repent for the crimes that society found him guilty of, instead by his re-definition of values, he discourses publicly on private truths of real importance: Art, religion, and ethics. He thus supports both the epistolary genre and the discourse of sexuality by making the private, public and forcing these matters to be acknowledged.
Filename Size Approximate Download Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds)
28.8 Modem 56K Modem ISDN (64 Kb) ISDN (128 Kb) Higher-speed Access Gomez_Thesis.pdf 216.80 Kb 00:01:00 00:00:30 00:00:27 00:00:13 00:00:01