Structures of Confinement: Power and Problems of Male Identity

Melissa Dickson, Sally Shuttleworth, Emilie Taylor-Brown

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Both the ‘hidden history’ of men’s mental health and the perceived pressures of ‘modern’ life in the nineteenth century have been the subject of recent historiographic exploration. Of emerging importance is the extent to which forms of power – institutional, political, social – underwrite and structure male identity. This introduction maps out the landscape of a New Agenda that views male experience through the dual lenses of power and confinement, highlighting the far-reaching implications of the restraints placed upon middle-class men – socially, ideologically, and physically – by a changing social and medical landscape, from the early Victorian period to the final decades of the century more commonly associated with the onset of modernity. The essays that follow will explore the confining apparatuses of male-dominated professional spheres and identify points of resistance in the form of textual reflection and self-fashioning. From the walls of the asylum, to the constraints of professional life, to the ideals of literary production, these essays expose the biopolitics of these structures of confinement while demonstrating that such frameworks provided space, in some cases, for revisionist assertions of masculine selfhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
Issue number2
Early online date31 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Asylum
  • Confinement
  • Fatigue
  • Genius
  • Masculinity
  • Mental health
  • Modernity
  • Nervous illness
  • Neurasthenia
  • Overwork
  • Selfhood
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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