Monday, March 24, 2014

Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy

By Helena Gurfinkel

“…[A] considerable work of scholarship…Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy represents an admirable attempt to undertake a dialogue with psychoanalysis around issues of patriarchy and maleness…illuminate[s] aspects of the Victorian novel (and its historical struggle with class and gender) and of psychoanalytic theory (to some extent another reaction to the same historical forces) and argue[s] against any essentialist reduction of the multilevel realities within each to rigid forms and precepts.” –Lewis Allen Kirshner, clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Outlaw Fathers delights by shattering paradigms. Employing the negative Oedipus complex, Gurfinkel challenges our easy definition of patriarchy by uncovering the queer patriarchy of queer fathers and sons [and] enlarges the category of the marriage plot by adding to the heteronormative definition a canon of queer marriage plots from Anthony Trollope through Samuel Butler to Alan Hollinghurst. This severing of masculinity from aggression and toward nurturing is especially valuable as we see the rise of gay marriage and gay parenting.” –Herbert Sussman, emeritus professor of English at Northeastern University

“In Outlaw Fathers, Helena Gurfinkel is doing subtly audacious work at the intersection of queer theory and Victorian and modernist studies. In a series of lucidly argued readings of important nineteenth- and twentieth-century British texts, she shows how they elaborate, against the dominant narratives of the Oedipus complex and the marriage plot, the queerer narratives of the negative Oedipus complex and the father-son marriage plot. But she does not just reveal this literary counter-tradition: against a certain hostility toward Freud in Foucauldian queer theory, she contributes incisively and elegantly to a theoretical counter-tradition that, seeing Freud himself as an outlaw father, realizes the queer possibilities of psychoanalysis.” –Joseph Litvak, professor and chair of the Department of English at Tufts University

Published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Available for pre-order from