Sexuality in David Copperfield. (1991)
AuthorsEarl, Victoriashow all
This thesis examines the sexual issues and visions of sexual experience that arise in Dickens' David Copperfield. The theoretical basis for this examination is Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality (Vol. l). In this work Foucault argues that during the nineteenth century sexuality was discussed and analysed as much, if not more than, it has been in our own century; that through various discourses a norm of sexuality was established, a norm against which all forms of sexual behaviour were defined and categorised. This transformation of sex into discourse resulted in the initiation of sexual heterogeneities. The process that Foucault outlines suggests film links with the creation of class hegemony. In the nineteenth century the emerging middle classes lacked a coherent class identity and it was this that they sought through the formation of new codes relating to sexual and moral issues. This thesis incorporates a discussion of David Copperfield as autobiographical fiction and the extent to which David's own narrative can be regarded as "truth". This reading of the novel centres on a view of David, a respectable middle-class gentleman, as supervisor of a panoptic structure, within which the world of the novel exists. His observations of the various domestic "cells" within this structure initiate the identification of a variety of peripheral sexualities, which correspond with those outlined in Foucault's History of Sexuality. Through this process David is shown to redefine and reinforce his own middle-class status. To the extent that this process of categorisation and marginalisation of peripheral sexualities, this endorsement of middle-class hegemony, is reproduced in this narrative, it can be said that David Copperfield is complicit with the general discourse on sexuality as outlined by Foucault in Volume one of The History of Sexuality.