From the first chapter of Robert Jordan's *The Eye of the World,* the motive of the quest is clear: to save masculinity and, hence, all life. When masculinity is tainted and corrupted, all life suffers, and it must be redeemed if life will continue in the Light. Jordan does a great job highlighting a point that we continue to struggle with into the 21st century: this belief that masculinity must be unadulturated, straightforward, clean and clear...or else.
Sanshiro by Natsume Soseki is a novel about Japanese masculinity in which Sanshiro, our hero, comes to terms with his role as a college-educated man from the country. Sanshiro is a Modern(ist) hero who develops a heightened sense of self-consciousness as a result of the industrialized and urbane environment of higher education in the city, a confusing confrontation with "unintelligible" Western literary artifacts that seem important in Japanese education, and from his indomitable fear of women.
Woman is almost wholly missing from the Romantic confrontation with the arctic. Where she tries to enter, she is silenced, ineffective. But in this Victorian landscape we witness some permeability in which saving the tainted man is possible through, of course, the sweet truth of a pure, angelic woman. But here, the artic, Dante-esque devil meets his foil and one soul has been saved. The heroic act occurs within the domestic sphere in the safety of the English shrubbery.
In Ballard's The Drought, Ransom is faced with two options: submit to femininity or become a shadow. He apparently makes the right decision for the future of humanity. There are, evidently, worse fates than becoming nothing. A man might become womanly. What Ballard has done is found a way to avert what we gender theorists would call the real apocalypse.
At the close of Can you Forgive Her? readers are asked to follow suit and forgive Vavasor -- easily -- for what she has done. As a reader in the 21st century I could really care less about her jilting Grey; I once jilted a lover. What I struggle to forgive in Vavasor is her insistence that she can never want to forgive herself.
This month I read four novels that seemed to be connected to each other through the trope of fantastical misogyny: Nabokov's Lolita, Thompson's The Nothing Man, Ellis's American Psycho, and Hamsun's Hunger(ok, this novel isn't quite 20th century --1890 -- but is considered an important landmark novel that inspired 20th century fiction). In each of the these texts the hero's actions are propelled forward through his obsessively imagining the physical abuse of the women around him.
Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure could be the anthem novel for the early twentieth-century movement inspired by Filippo Marinetti except Cleland’s work predates Futurism by nearly two centuries. Taken out of historical context, Cleland and Marinetti seem contemporaries in their metaphysical treatment of pleasure and pain