Dear friends and readers and (especially if any of those who come to this blog are) readers of Trollope,
Last April I finished and sent off to to a peer-edited academic periodical a succinct review of The Politics of Gender in Anthony Trollope’s Novels, edd. Deborah Morse, Margaret Markwick and Reginia Gagnier. The book consists of 15 of the 40 odd papers delivered at an Anthony Trollope conference I attended at Exeter College in July 2006. My paper, Trollope’s Comfort Romances for Men” was published on the Victorian Web shortly thereafter.
I have been told my review would be published soon, and it has not yet been published. I know “soon” is a relative term, and had decided to wait until my review was published to put on the Net my summaries of all the essays (part of the work I did to write the review). However, I’m getting impatient, plus I’m afraid I’ll forget where I put them by the time the review is published.
So here one-half of the volume summarized and evaluated with details kept in: the introduction and the first 7 out of the 14. I’ll put the second 14 and coda on this blog tomorrow or the next evening. When the review is published I’ll link it in to both blogs, and cite the name of the periodical, plus bibliographical data. Here I summarized the contents of and evaluate each of the essays with details kept in in the order they appear.
Montague Square, south of Marylebone Road, London, which Trollope knew from his childhood and where he lived again from 1873-1880: he was a Londoner. “Not a gorgeous neighborhood, but one which will suit my declining years and modest resources.”
The Introduction by Deborah Morse and Margaret Markwick
The introduction has the value of citing recent articles that can be fit into the agenda and valued hierarchy of the introducers, some of which are by “rising stars” in academia. There is much stilted jargon, and the least title any of the contributors can lay claim to cited with solemnity. The papers are divided up according to the rank of the people (“new”, upcoming &c). The importance of what they are all saying is undercut by the language which suggests how subtle and ambivalent what they find is. Once you get past the jargon, you can find a thesis that supports recent ideas about female gender (against essentialism, showing women have masculine traits, especially ambition and competitive and amorality) and the kind of qualified pro-capitalism and critique of colonialism which is not multicultural popular in American academia; these are argued (as Kincaid says in his blurb) “unpredictable” & unexpected angles; ironically, most of the essays then present a Trollope who is a mirror of his era, albeit in different terms.
Kate Field when young, the woman Trollope named as the one he loved tenderly
“(A)genda Trouble and the Lot Complex: Older Men – Younger Women Relationships in Trollope
The first key note address (2:00 pm) the most enjoyable and stimulating of the whole conference (that I got to hear). Robert M. Polhemus talked about “older-men-younger-women, father-daughter relationships in Trollope.” He began by retelling the Lot story from the Bible, and suggested that in Trollope we find many older men fostering the identity and sexuality and fulfilled futures of younger women. The older men may play a father, brother, or companionate, or implicitly sexual partner role (apparently heterosexual) to the younger women. From “A Ride Across Palestine”, Prof Polhemus made visible the fluid and subversive sexuality of the older male narrator and younger woman dressed as a male who travels with the narrator; he argued that “Mary Gresley” was a reverse Jane Eyre: we see the cruelty of the demand the heroine destroy her manuscript to please the male ego of her betrothed, and how when she goes out to a missionary place with her rigid clergyman-husband, she dies. He quoted allusions to Currer Bell in “Mary Gresley.”
Polhemus wants to use his findings positively as about how older men mentor younger women who they also have sexual relationships with. He proceeds to discuss the spiritual and emotional incest between older men who mentor/befriend/protect/marry younger women, as well as fathers and daughters and siblings as something deeply fulfilling as well as good (productive) for the women — to hang on to these mens’ power I’d put it — he wouldn’t. He wants to celebrate how younger women are set up in life by older men (fathers, brothers, and yes professors) and sees in Trollope a similar urge to give young women to older men — especially after Trollope grows older. (See comments for a review of his older book, Changing World of Anthony Trollope.)
“He Knew He Was Right: The Sensational Tyranny of the Sexual Contract and Problem of Liberal Progress”
Kathy Psomiades argument about He Knew He Was Right is the story of Louis’s sexual tyranny may be read as a story about the violence of the state (through its contracts) and the violence of reform (the desire of the female to escape this contract); Louis is the “other” liberalism wants to get rid of; he is anti-liberalism irrationality. She wants to use the novel to examine liberalism and gender (p. 32). She says that in HKHWR we find another version of Carole Pateman’s Sexual Contract (see p. 42) and Mill’s Subjection of Women. From McClennan we find that gender relations are often violent and tyrannical, p 35. Some women in the novel also unfairly usurp male power (Wallachia Petrie and Aunt Stanbury); Gibson marriage is gender warfare; three good marriages show new subjects inside old legal forms (Brooke and Dorothea, Hugh and Nora, Caroline and Glascock), and some women turn violence into something consented to, so this novel proves the justice of Carole Pateman’s claims; the good married people make the world safe for marriage. See this novel as mirroring the age; part of general tendency of era of second reform act to use marriage and gender to construct social and political theories about how human society and gender work.
At the heart of this essay is a sceptical treatment of all these constructs as if the speaker doesn’t believe any of them.
I was troubled by this paper since it seemed to deprecate the practical and intellectual gains of the 19th century liberal progressive movement (as seen in the work of John Stuart Mill) and recent 1970s feminist thought. It was implied that Catherine MacKinnon was against sexual fulfillment and Carol Pateman’s Sexual Contract wrong (!), and once again there seemed to be an avoidance of critiquing the pain Trollope’s characters’ use of power (female as well as male) inflicts on other characters. I guessed that there was a “third-wave” feminism point of view in the paper but am not sure.
It does make sense to me of the claim the fight between Louis and Emily Trevelyan is not about sex, with his demand for control of her being a kind of tactical cover-up: it raises the book to a high philosophical level an upper class academic might care about as part of their rights in a (limited) milieu of liberal establishments
Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda, an (apparent) bastard son (from the 2004 film by Andrew Davies)
“Bastards to the Time: Legitimacy as Legal Fiction in Trollope’s novels of the 1870s”
Jenny Bourne Taylor, like K. Psomiades, wants to elevate or generalize the novels’s stories into high abstract ideas and concrete realities so she moves into a cultural anthropology discussion, and then she’s extrapolates her discussion out of Trollope’s specific stories.
It’s another one of these very difficult essays which if read carefully make wide jumps, sudden sweeping abstract claims. So the only way to figure out what is said and connect the parts is to summarize.
She opens with a good introduction about the era and how these general themes may be found in a number of novels: The vexed question of personal legitimacy — what’s a proper marriage, legally sanctioned offspring, to be a socially authorized member of a family — found in many Trollipe novels.where the question of bastards is used. Trollope’s 60s novels: Dr Thorne, Castle Richmond, Can you Forgive Her?, Belton Estate, He Knew He Was Right; then his 70s and early 80s; John Caldigate, Ralph the Heir, Lady Anna, Is He Popenjoy?, Mr Scarborough’s Family. (I can’t find any bastards in CYFH?, Belton Estate, HKHWR.) JBTaylor says AT is intrigued by slipperiness of concept and law; and uses bastards as a site to delve other aspects of social life attached to this. JBTaylor has written a very long essay on one such case in real life: the Sheldon and there she’s superb and clear because it’s a matter of retelling the literal facts and arguments really made.
Anyway of the Victorians, Eliot delves these matters too, e.g., in Felix Holt and Daniel Deronda: a secretly spurious heir, the “adulterine bastard” Harold Transome; Daniel’s imagined identity is as Sir Hugo Mallinger’s younger son so he’s a noble bastard. Is Arthur legitimate; question found in state (James, Duke of Monmouth) and then in 18th century novels, Fielding’s Tom Jones and Robert Bage’s Hermsprong (pp. 46-47).
Sentimental figure of ruined mother driven by desperation to infanticide that dominates radical novels (Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays) of the 1790s; melodramatic talk swirling around poor laws, figure of bastard female in the 1850s (Esther Summerson) again, with Collins No Name, and then again back to secretly illegitimate son with Thackeray’s Henry Esmond.
She shows how legal historians and cultural anthropologists of the age exposed the constructs; Maine and McLennan share a idea about mixed progress where we see atavisms carryon in modern law and customs (p. 49) We see anomalies in laws about what makes nationality and can you renounce this as citizens. Laws relating to illegitimacy differed so in Scotland a child could be retrospectively legitimized (once the parents married); English child remained illegitimate for life. A case whereby a man whose father emigrated to the US and never married the mother until just before his death; the man sued as a Scottish person, but the judge found he was illegitimate because he lived and was born in the US which followed the UK law even if increasingly since US people were protesting it. In JBTaylor’s article she says the case was so disquieting because it highlighted the difficulties of defining legal identity itself.
Then she covers three novels where she says these concerns highlighted. The best discussion is the first as the novel most fits (though I am reconfiguring what came first and second to make it make sense). In Trollope’s Ralph the Heir; he satirizes fixed moral positions based on legitimacy, by showing how legal codes are rooted in social and economic interest; the Burkean ideal of continuity is then inconsistent, but there is nothing to use for a substitute; different forms of marriage for different reasons are set against one another. We have a feckless heir against a virtuous bastard; Underwood a Tory but an absent father, Underwood and radical tradesman are victims of political corruption; Neefit tries to bribe the legitimate heir to marry Polly. Gregory, a good man, like illegitimate Ralph Newton, is younger brother of legitimate son. Squire tries to buy reversion of estate for 50,000 but dies before transaction complete; real tragic feeling over Squire’s death and the illegitimate Ralph’s grief. Ending made happy: virtuous Ralph does get 40,000 and buys himself an estate; Father wants his eldest true son to inherit but contract of marriage was not in place; so now new lousy legitimate son must get it; the legitimate heir marries a baronet’s daughter and Polly her beloved Ontario Moggs.
The second and third: Lady Anna and Is He Popenjoy? what is means to have a valid identity in Ralph the Heir now in these two novels is said to move into instability of law itself. A legitimate wife and daughter (Lady Anna and her mother) become illegitimate but then they might just have a claim as date of Earl’s marriage and its reality under dispute.
This plot-design comes from Oxford Companion and only with it can you make sense of what’s said: Lady Anna’s father who had declared her mother not his real wife, now dies and his will is contested so perhaps a far away handsome heir to the title might get money; if they marry, then they are both okay. She marries a radical tailor who together with his father was good to her and mother when impoverished. Anna’s ideals of loyalty are decent grattitude and honesty to her emotions. Countess obsessed (usual mad Trollope character driven so by life, shoots tailor. A brilliant lawyer Sir William Patterson, is our fairy godfather: in some of his behavior he overturns custom like Chaffanbrass to follow “general good” which is not the same as upholding status and rank — which we see are tenuous.)
Back to Taylor: she sees Lady Anna very abstractly: Legitimacy is redefined in different ideological contexts discussed on a high level of abstraction. She says the young Earl is a modern middle class professional. Is he? Then that in Lady Anna’s choice companionate marriage replaces dynastic except that Daniel recreates patriarchical power for himself in private sphere.
Then we jump to this is a “powerful investigation of how fiction of legitimacy functions as social cement”
Is He Popenjoy? she says legitimacy now based on fantasy and nothing but a silly name. (Not so.) She quotes great lines by others: contemporary Victorian who said “How slight are the barriers which part modern civilization from ancient savagery”. In fact we have a ruthless brutal marquis who kicks his family out and aggressive ruthless father-in-law of younger son’s wife. Far from fantasy, this is power and is exercised — even if granted only by documents. It’s only the Marquis’s death and death of child that ends this. No fantasies either.
In passing she refers to inner story of sexual and emotional and social struggle of George and Mary Germaine. This is way too short, too truncated and fancy language final paragraph useless. Mr Scarborough is more the case in point about fantasies of legitimacy; Ralph the Heir fits her thesis, but not Lady Anna. Essay remarkably arid in tone.
In sum, two of the novels chosen don’t make her case and in Is He Popenjoy? she ignores what is of real interest (and even repeats a silly joke of Markwick’s as if it’s relevant when it’s just a mistake of dating in Trollope).
Since I’m watching a transposition film version of Tom Jones, it’s interesting to me how some of the tropes of Lady Anna and Ralph the Heir (shooting the man who wants to marry the father’s daughter and is not wanted from rank or position), the tragic bastard the father really love are found in Fielding.
Frank Greystock (Marvin Jarvis), from 1974 The Pallisers mini-series
“Out of the Closet: Homoerotics in Trollope’s Novels”
Margaret Markwick immediately alludes to several books on homosexual encoding in the 19th century (naturally Eve Sedgwick) but one I’d not hear of before by Richard Dellamora, Friendship’s Bonds, has a chapter on Lopez as exhibiting lots of “sodomitical” imagery. Trollope dresses Lopez is very Dandyish and in a svelte tux and that is how Raven and team dress Stuart Wilson: in the novel Emily has these longings for sex with Lopez :). Markwick concentrates on homo-social bonding in Trollope’s novels of which Castle Richmond is the most daring example (again an early book. Trollope’s early books are much more daring. (The erotic couple are Owen Fitzgerald and the Countess’s son as well as the older Countess and Owen.) She suggests some of the coded language of gay studies are found in Trollope, e.g., the use of the “orient”, of the middle East, and suggestively hints at Trollope’s unknown broad experiences when traveling backed up by this or that line she remarkably remembers turned to persuasively demonstrate what she’s saying. Markwick’s essay is normative in the way of recent masculine studies, with the reader being preached to that masculinity in Victorian times was seen in nurturing protective behavior by men, accompanied by an overt careful distancing of herself from anything coming near “extremist feminism.
I was disappointed at how little lesbianism she found — but that coheres with her negative attitude towards or erasure of real feminism. Homo-social relationships or friendships in Frank Fenwick and Harry Gilmour in Vicar of Bullhampton, John Grey and Frank Seward in Can You Forgive her, Earl of Brentford and Violet Effingham’s dead father; proprietors of periodical where this appeared quickly pulled the series when protests made by readers of Ride Across Palestine; the use of oriental imagery as coding homosexuality found in Turkish Bath; orient = sodomitical, and she finds jocular references to Orient as a focus for homo-erotical pleasure in The Bertrams; there is nothing there but she finds a joke connected to Bertie Stanhope in Barchester Towers (his clothes extravagantly feminine-dandyish); philosopher becomes an inword for strong sexual appetites which include the homoerotic in Frank Greystock (Eustace Diamonds); the most extended and persuasive treatment is of Patrick Desmond (boy) and Owen Fitzgerald in Castle Richmond, but somehow she hedges again and starts to describe this as a romantic friendship which neither of “them should shrink from akcnowledging.” She has a way of turning things into normative and of course they could return from trips to marry and have children. We hear “the confident voice of tolerance, presenting a manhood that sits comfortably with liberal thinking today.” (See comments for a review of her book, New Men in Trollope’s Novels.)
“‘Some Girls Who Come from the Tropics:’ Gender, Race, and Imperialism in Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right
Deborah Denenholz Morse presented a post-colonial reading of He Knew He Was Right. She argued that beyond making visible in the story of Louis and Emily Trevelyan the oppressive patriarchal power structure, one where the male seeks to control and repress the distrusted sexuality of his wife, in He Knew He Was Right Trollope uses Emily and the place she comes from to show how European males sought to imprison and quell slaves, the colonized peoples they were exploiting. She used the analogy Trollope sets up between Shakespeare’s Othello and this novel to suggest that we have a racial story. The three romantic subplots are there by contrast.
The problem with the essay is twofold. First without any evidence beyond Trollope’s friendship with one of the man against what Eyre did, she says that in the story of Emily and Louis Trollope is imitating the slavery politics of the island with Emily standing in for black people and Louis the whites.
Trollope said he wanted to make sympathy for Louis and failed; he certainly failed with Morse who has no sympathy for Louis’s sexual anxiety or mental breakdown whatsoever. She reverses gear then to say this is not a novel which condemns marriage because she wants to show Trollope presenting good men (you see feminists don’t hate men) and strong women in the other three marriages. Trollope celebrates through Hugh’s musing self-sacrificing love. Intense admiration for Nora (strong, intelligent) and quotes Hugh about beauty of loving. Louis emerges as simply a jerk of the first water. This is not an essay which could make sympathy for an underdog or ill person; better not give her any control over mentally troubled people.
Second, the trail of The Politics of Gender led me to another collection of essays, The Erotics of Instruction where one of the editors is also Deborah Morse and I’ve been startled. I found an earlier version of Morse’s essay/paper for the conference in this volume: basically the reading of HKHWR stays the same, mostly exactly the same texts from HKHWR are quoted for the most part (a few different as the essay is longer in Erotics); only the “reading” has a different context and much less jargon to prove it. The earlier essay in Erotics of Instruction also condemns Louis (though not as fiercely).
The other essays in this volume tells of themselves as teachers in a similar way. How “love” enters the classroom and allusions to such experiences and then readings of books (or not as the case may be).
Except one. By the one Name: James Kincaid, a major older Trollopian and as was common then a male. In his he decries the whole volume and project. Calls it “fouling one’s nest” “stinking” and says they are totally misguided and misunderstand the whole project of education and humanities. He uses the strongest language I’ve seen outside the net or blogs. His argument is that erotics are in all our experience but when we teach we are to be disinterested insofar as we can or we are corrupt and self-seeking in the worst way for our students. This book, he says, shows the hollowness of what has happened to literary studies. How humanities as a discipline is losing its way altogether.
His essay is preface by a dismayed set of paragraphs from Morse and women friends (a group coterminous with the one that put Politics of Friends together) about how he has hurt this beautiful hard worked thing they did but they want freedom for the press so will publish him. Right. They want his big name. His is the one famous name in the volume (though he’s not the only male).
I agree with Kinkaid (I’ve been teaching for nearly 30 years overall).
I would say a woman reader can react to Trollope as a father figure. I know that Davies a subtle reader has discerned this older man salivating after young girls in the novels and in his adaptation of HKHWR and puts a sharp analysis of this in the mouth of Paul Montague (a hero in the The Way We Live Now and Davies’s film) to Sir Roger Carbury who is a good and well-meaning person in the book and film. Sir Roger is taken aback to see himself this way but human he rejects this perspective and attacks Roger for spending a weekend with Mrs Hurtle (this follows the book again). How dare you attack me when look at what you do is the vein. Powerful scene in Davies, not quite what is in Trollope 🙂
The byways of chasing down the background for books and understanding where they come from.
Lizzie Eustace (Sarah Badel) shows George (John Alexander) the jewels she’s stolen from herself (1974 The Pallisers mini-series)
“Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds and ‘The Great Parliamentary Bore”
In order to understand it even at a minimal level I was driven to outline it in normal English. Lauren M. E. Goodlad said: Eustace Diamonds is the one place where we find Trollope saying something about India. We notice immediately its context, The Moonstone which is a novel which plays on India. So we can say Trollope is meaning to say something about India – though Goodlad admits that in his Autobiography Trollope said he meant to imitate a Wilkie Collins type detective novel and says nothing about India. ED is though an “example of mid-Victorian ‘geopolitical aesthetic.” She mentions George Levine who regarded these Palliser novels as about the ordinary daily life of people, conventional and “plodding.” She is going to refute his way of underestimating ED.
She then says she will have shown elsewhere (a paper is cited in the notes) that there is no racial discourse in Barsetshire books but there is in Pallisers, especially Prime Minister (Lopez as Jewish) and in TWWLN. ED is then declared to be “a site of meditation on imperial ethics”. She is going to dwell on Lucy Morris and the Sawab of Mygawb instead of Lizzie.
But first we must begin with Trollope’s statement in the autobiography, and then what is in the novel about the Sawab (the paragraphs about Lucy’s interest and defense of him) and then she turns to the theme of “honest ownership.” This resides in the diamonds (so too are diamonds central to Moonstone). In this novel there is a debate over whether jewels are heirlooms or commodities. She quotes Turtle Dove’s final opinion that the diamonds are “a simple question of dirty money” (not on p 258 but 259). Camperdown wants property to be regarded as Burkean so he can take it back for family.
The way Goodlad gets from this debate which is in the novel to the mentions of the Sawab of Mygawb is to say that imagery of jewels and idea of a treasure is attached to Lucy, so Lucy = family heirloom, Lucy resists being treated as an object, she is independent and she defends Sawab as this decent liberal person but we are asked to notice how she is seen to covet something so Goodlad implies here is a boring (irritating?) pretense of goodness and real hypocrisy, p 106. At the same time we are told Lucy is a double for Sawab as a vulnerable woman since Lucy fights with Fawn to support Frank and she leaves the family in support of her link (“property” Goodlad calls it) to Frank. Sawab of Mygawb only Indian in novel and he is there because Lucy sides with him; she feels for underdog; later out of party politics Frank attacks Fawn’s party’s neglecting the Sawab. Somehow Lucy is a dirtied as everyone else.
Goodlad basically sneers at Lucy while acknowledging the novel has other middle class women “who lack satisfactory economic alternatives to marriage.” (p.107)
She then proceeds to find minor Indian royals who came to England claiming they had been mistreated, and one in particular in a book by Major T. Evans Bell who is named and described as “is, or was lately a prisoner near Bombay and suspect of treason.” Rajah of Sattara. This is described as “the equivalent of of an Indian royal teetering between enthronement and incarceration.” (p. 110). Another Indian in magazine Vanity Fair was written about at the time who had an analogous case. Then she tells of Trollope’s friend Herman Merivale who was real-life Permanent Under-secretary for State of India during Myore debate — in the news that the UK had not annexed Mysore after 1799 victory but let family remain in control (not uncommon arrangement) and question was if Queen’s proclamation to support the allies (upper class Indians) who had supported Brits would be honored. In fact John Morley wrote that the Brit gov’t was gong to annex Mysore upon the death of this Rajah. All this is asserted to be the context for ED.
Then we are told Trollope is a “a novelist eager neither for a liberal civilizing mission nor a conservative romanticism.” What matters is which party in parliament presides over case and Fawn is a parellel to Merivale who actually did feel a wrong was being done to another man mentioned in Bell’s book. Now since none of this appears in ED she has to say the very absence of details is part of the point (but what quite the point is she really doesn’t say). She doesn’t quite want to say that Fawn is a sympathetic character (as he is regarded by most readers as despicable — to me not so necessarily) so she next quotes reviews at the time which said the character of Fawn really interested them as mimetic. Then we get a description of the satire at Fawn, Frank’s attack, and how Fawn ridiculed, and an account of the petty politics presented in the book (decimal coinage, marital maneuvers), and finally Fawn telling Mr Hittaway there is no support from the lawyers to grab back the diamonds from Lizzie.
What does all this footwork, maneuvering and doubtless hard reading to pick out such details in the welter of the events of the day as written about in magazines and nonfiction political books add up to? She has to turn to what Trollope wrote in his travel books and other novels: there we see him predict the extinction of indigenous peoples in climates suitable to British settlement (Australia and New Zealand), paternalism in Ireland (in the novels); she then turns back to the sentence she found in Davison (which she quotes at the opening of this essay) where Trollope says India is a “bore” because it’s “not a colony in the proper sense” as there are very few English people and these there as rulers. Davison said Trollope regarded the idea Indian was “keystone” to the English empire was “preposterous.” I can’t understand the very vague general statement that she ends her penultimat paragraph on. It seems to say nothing but that Trollope “resisted” idea there was imperial justice and the cover ups (“oriental” essence as alibi).
So we end on how everyone in parliament in ED is bored, or fast asleep, and how Trollope is showing us parliamentary politics are a coverup for demoralizing theft.”
She does not return to the jewels or Lucy but instead says how this novel is not “naive realism nor self-naturalizing” but “aspires to historical grasp that defines a geopolitical aesthetic.” If you know what that means, let me know.
On his website, Nick Hay said he didn’t understand this paper very well. I didn’t go to listen to it read aloud. He did think it was meant to show Trollope “became more radical as he grew older and this radicalization can be traced through the treatment of specific subjects in the books.” Maybe he was polite when in his blog he says he found the argument “quite compelling” even though he also says he didn’t understand it and I know him to think that Trollope despite his skeptical disillusion was conservative.
For myself I find an insidious undercurrent here which mocks liberal and generous agendas (as in Lucy), is embarrassed by them when the person is dull (like Fawn) and wholly unsympathetic to underdogs of the book. She seems always to refer to liberal ideas and liberalism as a phenomenon to be doubted and distrusted, but I am not sure what liberalism she means. She seems not to care about the women since she ignores the central debate about what happens to them without money and power (companions who are miserable, governesses who can’t have a private life, Lucinda driven mad) and the jewels, which Trollope de-mystifies as sheer money for everyone, a false front and prestigious showing off of owning women. It seems to me an example of a paper masquerading as caring about about what? I’m not quite sure.
Phineas (Donald McCann) and Chiltern (John Hallam) in the 1974 mini-series, The Pallisers (at their London club)
“Two Identities:” Gender, Ethnicity and Phineas Finn
Mary Jean Cobbett begins by alluding to Mark Turner (they all do, his book is on Trollope in the Marketplace which apparently is about gender issues too), and then says she wants to show that Trollope cared about Irish matters, was not a quintessential English person. She will show that a binary is fundamental to Trollope whereby men are shown to have feminine traits (the way she says Ireland was feminized in metaphors). It seems that this binary is “exploded” in An Eye for an Eye and the incapacity of people to act effectively in Macdermots and Castle Richmond “registers a gap within manhood” itself.
She turns to Phineas Finn: We first see how ambitious and hard-working Phineas is frustrated when he find it’s Lawrence Fitzgibbon (no deskwork for him) is given the Undersecretary at colonies; she picks on the one flaw in Dames’s paper on modern careerism in Trollope where Dames says that class and ethnicity don’t count in Phineas’s career rise: Fitzgibbon has rank Finn does not have, and has this “Irish otherness” not found in Phineas who does not seem to cohere to Irish stereotypes. Lonergan in his paper on Phineas (in our files) agrees with this and says it’s why Phineas is often overlooked when people look for Irishness in Trollope’s fiction even if Phineas is clearly interested in Irish issues and has been identified with 6 different real Irish members of Parliament at the time.)
Corbett’s Phineas is then made to be crucially “manly” as Victorians defined this (Tosh’s book on Masculinities) because he acts independently of his party; this Trollope does lest (she thinks) we think him feminized by his association with Ireland and all the love affairs he has — I would add possible dependence on Violet, Madame Max, and (later in PF) debt to Lady Glencora’s politicking. Bonteen needles Finn over this (picked up in film adaptation).
She then picks up idea common to notice: that Phineas has to choose between two identities if he marries Mary Flood Jones, and says the narrator (who she differentiates from implied author) is eager to contest Phineas’s desire to return to Ireland and “womanliness”. No Phineas is a man and manly and this is misrecognized because manliness not associated with nurturing, love, gentleness with women, lack of suspicion. So she says the book argues against “polarized scripts for ethnicity and gender.” The Phineas books challenge “dominant assumptions about gender and ethnicity.”
I did argue in my paper on heterosexual heroism that manliness for Trollope was not centrally a matter of aggression, but rather a group of attitudes which enable him to contest false and pernicious social expectations, and that he does have masculine women who enact some masculine norms, but they are usually non-virgins and/or older. I did not go on to say he contested the way women were defined and regarded and what makes for femininity or norms for masculinity as such; only that the power of some parts of his stories shows us characters in conflict with the sexual-social norms of the age.
I did not and do not think this is central to the fictions. I only argued it to fit into the conference — though fat lot of good it did me since I was ignored not only for the book but my book never quoted in the bibliography or anywhere. It does make them comfort romances for many men.
In my blog and notes I had apparently misunderstood this paper and thought she was arguing on behalf of Phineas’s careerism — which the implied author is ambivalent about. Now from her essay in front of me I see why I thought that: she does talk approvingly of Phineas’s near choosing Madame Max over Mary Flood Jones, and does not see his act as one of integrity rather a (obscurely phrased) him casting aside one of his identities (English, seeking power) which she appears to approve of.
Her point is to prove that Phineas’s womanliness is not incompatible with being manly (!?). An odd thing to end up on, to go to all this trouble to prove — and here is where Terry Eagleton in his brief review of this book has given me insight why. This is a concern of American female academics.
Tomorrow the second half of the book.