George Meredith’s Rhoda Fleming: Sexuality, Submission, and Subversion

Crossley, Alice (2019) George Meredith’s Rhoda Fleming: Sexuality, Submission, and Subversion. The Yearbook of English Studies, 49 . ISSN 0306-2473

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George Meredith’s Rhoda Fleming: Sexuality, Submission, and Subversion
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Abstract

This essay is a study of the ways in which heterosexuality is disrupted in George Meredith’s novel Rhoda Fleming to promote alternative, more fluid expressions of desire. It argues that the heterosexual relationships foregrounded in the text are destabilised, in favour of alternative erotic dynamics imagined at least in part through homoeroticism, submission, and masochism, resulting in flexible iterations of both gender identity and sexual orientation. In particular, patterns of eroticised competition and sexual passivity enable displaced male heterosexual attachment to – and through – Rhoda Fleming’s three female protagonists. The novel’s explorations of non-heteronormative sexuality are articulated through triangulated desire and proliferative doublings, which remain unresolved by the equivocal marriages that draw the novel to a close. This article therefore engages in an expansive queer reading of Meredith’s seemingly conventional, fallen-woman narrative of heterosexual courtship and seduction. In doing so, it illustrates that eroticised sexual marginality is deployed by Meredith to subvert dominant ideals about gender and about Victorian heterosexual imperatives.

Keywords:Victorian literature, Victorian fiction, George Meredith, Sexuality, Homoerotic, queer, masochism, gender, nineteenth-century literature
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q322 English Literature by author
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q321 English Literature by period
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q300 English studies
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:36317
Deposited On:27 Jun 2019 08:22

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