The poetics of difference : woman, death, and gender in the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins
This thesis considers the representation of women and the gender principles in the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins and situates his perceptions of "masculinity" and "femininity" within a cultural, historical and literary context. A selection of his less canonical poems and prose is discussed and re-evaluated in the light of feminist and psychoanalytieal theory. In particular, the binarisms that fracture the representation of woman in Victorian art and literature and the issue of woman's alterity and subsequent association with death are identified and analysed. The thesis is organized into a tripartite introductory section, ten chapters and a conclusion. The first section of the introduction offers a broadly-based sociohistorical and theoretical examination of the gender principles and their origin. Part 11 of the introduction focuýSp s on Hopkins and his society, examining Victorian cultural views of gender diff6rence and the construction of masculinity. The third introductory section gives specific attention to Hopkins's theory of creativity and its relation to the gcndering of genius and aesthetic production. Chapters 1,2, and 3, offer detailed critical consideration of the deep psychosexual ambivalence towards woman, and the carnal materiality she embodies, in Hopkins's early poems: "ll Mystico", "A Voice from the World", "Hcaven-Havcn", "I must hunt down the prize", and "A Vision of the Mermaids". Chapter 4 gives a contextualized consideration of asceticism as an expression of the masculine will-to-power, and examines Hopkins's attraction to violence and the suffering of martyrs. The following three chapters explore the themes of death, violence and martyrdom, with particular emphasis on the issues of female sexual purity and masculine aesthetic vifility in Hopkins's verse drama on the murder of St. Winefred, St. Winefred's Well, and its accompanying chorus: "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo". The final three chapters of the thesis elucidate Hopkins's aesthetic and personal response to the Virgin Mary and the "feminine" pyschological characteristics and virtues she represents. Chapter 8 assesses the status of the Roman Catholic Church and the Virgin Mary in nineteenth century England, and also suggests that the image of the Madonna and the fictive "angel in the house" arc symbolically conjoined in opposition to the Tennysonian view of "Mother Nature" as a monstrous destroyer. This is followed, in Chapter 9, by a consideration of the view of Mary presented in Hopkins's prose. Chapter 10, the final chapter, presents a detailed analysis of Hopkins's Marian poem, "The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe", in which the ambivalence and anxiety that surround his concepts of selfhood, masculinity and the body of the mother arc examined. In conclusion, I argue that Hopkins's aesthetic and spiritual vocations are intimately linked with his notion of actual selfhood and are subject to the profoundly damaging influence of conflicting role expectations and mythic paradigms of masculinity and femininity which cannot be reconciled, either within the individual psyche, or in the society in which they are nurtured.