Revolutionary anxiety and violent masculinities: political psychopathy, trauma, and crisis in 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Barnaby Rudge'

Goodman, H (2016) Revolutionary anxiety and violent masculinities: political psychopathy, trauma, and crisis in 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Barnaby Rudge'. In: Anxious Forms 2016: Masculinities in Crisis in the Long Nineteenth Century, 28 October 2016, University of Glasgow, UK.

Official URL: https://anxiousforms.wordpress.com/previous-confer...

Abstract

This paper on masculinity and political violence in the long nineteenth century explores the enduring impact of Dickens’s representations of two major crises which occurred in the 1780s: the Gordon Riots in Britain and the French Revolution on the other side of the Channel. Drawing on a wealth of historical source material, a thorough knowledge of contemporary psychiatric thought and a wildly vivid imagination, Dickens brought to life these two major crises in public life through Barnaby Rudge (1841) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859). I suggest that Dickens pinpoints these two brutal historical events in order to explore the complex and turbulent relationship between the individual, society and the government through the lens of an enduring cultural crisis of masculinity. Focusing on cases of profoundly mentally disturbed men in the two novels, suffering from conditions ranging from trauma to idiocy to psychopathic apathy or extreme rage, this paper brings to light some of the most empathetic, terrifying and haunting examples of anxious masculinities in the nineteenth-century canon. In doing so, this paper argues that Dickens’s two historical novels carve out an exceptionally advanced and sophisticated theory of personal and political trauma, which will not allow the present to process the past in healthy, healing ways. Figures such as Barnaby Rudge and Dr Manette are indelibly scarred by their violent pasts at the hands of those who had the greatest duty to protects them: the family and the state. In the upside down world of revolutionary France, it is the women, led by Madame Defarge and the tricoteuses at the guillotine who appear to wield the most maniacal violent power, but new and tangled forms of anxious masculinity emerge in their wake during the Terror. In the earlier novel, less well-known villains rise up in a ‘dream of demon heads and savage eyes’ to reignite past trauma by manipulating a male mob on the streets of London.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: French Revolution, Gordon riots, Charles Dickens, radical politics, political violence, psychopathy, arson, death penalty, public executions, riots
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DC France
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
K Law > K Law (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
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Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2018 14:46
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2018 14:47
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