The rake's progress: Masculinities on stage and screen
Wardell, Kathryn Brenna
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Wardell, Kathryn Brenna
My dissertation analyzes the rake, the libertine male, a figure whose liminal masculinity and transgressive appetites work both to stabilize and unsettle hegemony in the texts in which he appears. The rake may seem no more than a sexy bad boy, unconnected to wider social, political, and economic concerns. However, my project reveals his central role in reflecting, even shaping, anxieties and desires regarding gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity. I chart the rake's progress from his origins in the Restoration era to the early twenty-first century. Chapter II examines William Wycherley's comedy The Country Wife in concert with John Dryden's Marriage à la Mode and Aphra Behn's The Rover to analyze the rake's emergence in seventeenth-century theatre and show that his transgression of borders real and figurative plays out the anxieties and aspirations of an emerging British empire. Chapter III uses John Gay's ballad opera The Beggar's Opera, a satiric interrogation of consumerism and criminality, to chart the rake in eighteenth-century British theatre as Britain's investment in global capitalism and imperialism increased. My discussion of Opera is framed by Richard Steele's early-century sentimental comedy The Conscious Lovers and Hannah Cowley's late-century The Belle's Stratagem, a fusion of sentiment and wit. Chapter IV hinges the project's theatre and film sections, analyzing Oscar Wilde's fin-de-siècle comedy The Importance of Being Earnest as a culmination of generations of theatre rakes and an anticipation of the film rakes of the modern and post-modern eras. Dion Boucicault's mid-century London Assurance is used to set up Wilde's queering of the rake figure Chapter V brings the rake to a new medium, film, and a new nation, the United States, as the figure catalyzes American tension over race and gender in early twentieth-century films such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat, George Melford's The Sheik, and Ernest Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise. My final chapter reads contemporary films, including Jenniphr Goodman's The Tao of Steve, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz's About a Boy, and Gore Verbinski's trilogy Pirates of the Caribbean for Disney Studios, to assess the ways in which millennial western masculinity is in stasis.
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