"Power always goes on and on" : the limits of masculinity in Marabou Stork Nightmares and Fight Club

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study is an attempt to trace the construction and performance of violent masculinity. In this thesis I argue that a particular form of violent masculine identity emerges from within a hegemonic structure of gender relations. I employ two popular, contemporary novels, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (1997) and Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996), to examine a form of masculinity which is involved in these relations. I explore these novels with the aim of identifying the ways in which their characters engage with those around them in accordance with the system of power which encompasses them. In doing so, I hope to explain the restricting limits placed upon their bodies, and clarify the compulsions which drive their private demeanours and interpersonal behaviour. I argue that these characters perform a model of masculine identity which is founded upon an ideology of naturalised male authority and grounded in the social practice of violent dominance. Marabou Stork Nightmares depicts a male narrator who, in enacting a model of hegemonic masculinity, becomes implicated in the reproduction of hegemonic masculine domination. Fight Club examines the role of this model in restricting its members to structural and physical domination. Each of these novels is concerned with outlining the limitations of performance of masculine gender identity directed through violence. In different ways they convey the extent to which a hegemonic system of dominance generates decidedly difficult and unhappy experience. Overall, this thesis attempts these novels, and to account for the problematic experiences of their characters.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 83-87).