'Chaos dark and deep': Grotesque selves and self-fashioning in Pope's Dunciad

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This chapter examines the notion of the eighteenth-century male self, at least in its Augustan formulation and constructed by Alexander Pope in his various Dunciads, as a conflicted entity riven by the discourses of gender, physical norms based on classical precedent, the ever-rising middling orders and consumer mercantile capitalism. It takes its cue both from the theory of Bakhtin’s grotesque and classical bodies, subsequently revised by Stallybrass and White’s now seminal Politics and Poetics of Transgression, and more recent critical notions of the historical specificity of the (medical) body in Pope’s own time, when a shift was occurring from the idea of mechanical body to one more centred around the nervous system. Helen Deutsch has productively discussed Pope’s construction of his own body in terms of deformity - one that Pope self-fashioned to his advantage as far as was possible (Resemblance and Disgrace). Here it is argued that Pope displaces his anxieties (consciously or not) about his own masculinity, poetic productivity and physical legitimacy onto a series of alternative selves, either grotesquely monstrous women, or chaotically effeminate men, most notably his poetic alter ego, the poet laureate Colley Cibber.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWriting and constructing the self in Great Britain in the long eighteenth century
EditorsMarion Leclair , John Baker, Allan Ingram
PublisherManchester University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781526123374
ISBN (Print)9781526123367
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameSeventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies
PublisherManchester University Press

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