A Study of Degeneration, Sexuality and Duality in Victorian Literature

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In this assignment I will be arguing the effects of degeneration in Fin de Siècle novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray I will explore the relevance of the Victorian ‘Double’ or duality of the soul in relation to my chosen texts and also the ambivalence of homosocial desire and how the lines between close bonds of men blur into the idea of homosexuality, also providing contextual references to the views of homosexuality in the Victorian age. The year Robert Louis Stevenson published The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, French Scientists were studying a patient at Rochefort Asylum, whom displayed a case of multiple personality, and suffered from “Male Hysteria.” Elaine Showalter states in her article “Louis V’s hysterical attacks had begun in adolescence… having been a “quiet, well behaved and obedient” street urchin, he abruptly became “violent, greedy and quarrelsome,” This quote could tie in with the creation of Mr Hyde, for Showalter dubs Stevenson’s novel ‘a case study of male hysteria’, in the way that the story is written about male bonds, and the men are seemingly abstinent from the relations of women. Jekyll states in his confession “man is not only one, but truly two… If each, I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable.’‘ This could translate to a dichotomy of ‘good versus evil’ for Emile Batault, a scholar of male hysteria observed that hysterical men were “timid and fearful… soft, poetic and languorous. Coquettish and eccentric, they prefer ribbons and scarves to hard manual labour… the male hysteric is seen as expressing his bisexuality or homosexuality through the language of the body.” It can be questioned that the Duality of Jekyll and Hyde, is an allegory for male/female desires, Showalter also
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