The "green-eyed monster": jealousy and erotic monomania in 'He Knew He Was Right' and 'The Forsyte Saga'

Goodman, H (2013) 'The "green-eyed monster": jealousy and erotic monomania in 'He Knew He Was Right' and 'The Forsyte Saga'.' In: Goodman, H, Russo, B.V and Zózimo, J, eds. Beyond these walls: confronting madness in society, literature and art. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, pp. 81-92. ISBN 9781848882034


This chapter explores ideas of love and desire at the borderline of madness in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English literature. Although recent research by Helen Small and others has considered female madness in this area, the relationship between masculinity and jealous desire culminating in madness has yet to be examined. In doing so, however, it is necessary to avoid falling into what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has referred to as a ‘vast national wash of masculine self-pity.’ Depictions of men’s borderline or absolutely monomaniacal desire to control the female body become increasingly explicit in literature as we move towards the end of the nineteenth century. This desire culminates, in extremis, in the act of rape. Once made clear by Samuel Richardson in Pamela (1740), this threat of violence festered just beneath the surface of much mid-nineteenth century fiction, before emerging in the explicit narrative through proto-modernist characters such as Alec D’Urberville in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) and Soames Forsyte in John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga (1906-1922). The focus of this chapter is on Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right (1868-9) and Galsworthy’s A Man of Property (1906), part of The Forsyte Saga. It traces the development of Shakespeare’s depiction of jealousy as ‘the green-eyed monster’ in Othello in the period from 1860 to 1910. As early as 1621, Robert Burton identified ‘love-melancholy’ and jealousy as significant forms of madness. I argue that these two novels are grounded in nineteenth-century theories of monomania and erotomania, and Esquirol’s work in particular. I suggest that they frame the failed marriage plot primarily as a male plot rather than a female one and draw attention to the psychological limits on male agency in the period. In doing so, they form part of a wider interdisciplinary discussion of a crisis of masculinity within Victorian culture.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section

Originally published 2013 by Inter-Disciplinary Press, now available from Brill Publishing (2019).

Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
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Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2019 15:41
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:52
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