Compulsory Domesticity: <i>Roderick Hudson</i>, Love, and Friendship in the Gilded Age

Axel Nissen

in Manly Love

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780226586663
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226586687 | DOI:
Compulsory Domesticity: Roderick Hudson, Love, and Friendship in the Gilded Age

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This chapter focuses on Henry James's first acknowledged novel, Roderick Hudson (1878), a hitherto unrecognized classic of the romantic friendship genre. James's text provides a means to conceptualize both the “straight closet” and what the author calls “compulsory domesticity.” The chapter examines three texts from the 1870s that bring into focus the relations both within and between the sexes. One is a novel, the second is a treatise of sorts, and the third is a magazine article. When brought into contact, these texts begin to recall a largely forgotten cultural conversation about manhood and womanhood, and love and friendship, in the Gilded Age. As Edith Wharton indicates in the title of her most famous novel, the 1870s constituted an “Age of Innocence.” It may well have been the last decade in which it was possible for a white, middle-class American man to have an unselfconscious and shameless consuming passion for a member of his own sex.

Keywords: Roderick Hudson; romantic friendship; Henry James; compulsory domesticity; Gilded Age; middle-class American; sexual passion

Chapter.  10396 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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