By Claire Jarvis
How did realist novelists within the 19th and early 20th centuries trace at intercourse whereas retaining a secure distance from pornography? Metaphors helped: waves, oceans, blooms, and illuminations have been all deployed in first rate realist novels to allude to the sexual act, permitting writers to painting companionate marriage whereas averting photo description. yet in Exquisite Masochism, Claire Jarvis argues that a few Victorian novelists went even extra, pushing formal obstacles by way of slyly constructing scenes of displaced erotic wish to recommend impropriety, perversion, and probability.
Through shut readings of canonical works by means of Emily Brontë, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, and a modernist outlier, D. H. Lawrence, Jarvis finds how writers’ diverse use of particular personality types―the dominant lady and the submissive man―in conjunction with decadent, descriptive scenes of sexual refusal creates a robust counter-narrative hinting at relationships past patriarchal and companionate marriage buildings. by way of targeting the exquisitely masochistic excitement caused by way of freezing, or postponing, the sexual cost, and by way of depicting quasi-contractual states at the outer edge of marriage, together with engagement, adultery, and widowhood, novelists disrupted the wedding plot’s insistence that erotic drives stay unfulfilled and that sexual connection may be chuffed basically by way of genital act.
Complicating our realizing of Victorian marriage ideology’s extra well-trodden specialize in a effective, nation-building perfect, Exquisite Masochism bargains interesting perception into our personal culture’s debates round illicit sexuality, marriage, copy, and feminism.