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Against the Grain

The Poetics of Non-Normative Masculinity in Decadent French Literature


Mathew Rickard

Is it really a man’s world? At a time when masculinity is being challenged, this book explores the links between reading and writing and how they have historically been associated with masculine privilege. This book focuses on the representation of masculinity as a literary concept in Decadent literature by Huysmans, Lorrain, Rachilde, and Mirbeau to demonstrate how the movement both appropriated and subverted patriarchal assumptions surrounding reading and writing. The author takes a broad approach towards masculinity and its discontents by uncovering unlikely pretenders to the throne – witches, dandies, and cuckolds – destabilising its validity. By positioning the study against the backdrop of the fi n-de-siècle «crisis» of masculinity, the book undermines previously held assertions about the nature of masculinity then and now, opening up fresh ground for the appraisal and analysis of gender in French studies and beyond.

This book was Joint Winner of the 2019 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Nineteenth-Century French Studies.

Contents: «Idées Masculines»: The Intertextual Poetics of Masculinity in Joris- Karl Huysmans’s À Rebours (1884) – «Vers le sabbat»: Occult Initiation and Non- Normative Masculinity in Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas (1901) – Who’s on Top?: Dequeering and Requeering Rachilde – The (Im)potency of the Pen(is): Mirbeau’s Masculine Author(ity) in Le Calvaire (1886).