Romantic Period Gender Roles and Sexuality in Byrons Don Juan

Romantic Period Gender Roles and Sexuality in Byrons Don Juan

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1 Professor: Amelia Ozdek Class: Intro to English Literature 52_11 Romantic Period: Gender Roles and Sexuality in Byron’s ‘Don Juan’ Don Juan is known as a semi-autobiographical novel; as such, its protagonist reflects much of the history and personality of its author. The author himself, Lord Byron, was a particularly confused man. He had a rumoured relationship with his half sister, Augusta, for several years, was apparently bisexual, and was throughout his life extremely promiscuous by the standards of the time, falling in and out of love easily and quickly and possessing an impulsive nature. This paper will deal with the extent of his confusion as it extends to the character and novel Don Juan , and explore the idea of Don Juan as a representation of Byron’s own confusion with his sexuality and gender. Byron’s family history is incredibly interesting. It is a tale of extreme incest, with generations of first cousins marrying, leading up to Byron’s own supposed love affair with his half-sister Autumn. His father died when he was young after a separation from his mother, leaving a young George Gordon, not yet Lord Byron, to be raised by his mother, much like his creation Don Juan. Byron’s mother was an educated woman with a love of literature. “she could criticise shrewdly, in after years, not only her son's poems… but the discrepant reviews of them. On the other hand, she never lost the provinciality, the uncouthness even, of the atmosphere wherein she had grown up, and to this defect was added the far more distressing one of a violent temper which had never known control…China as well as "words" flew at her victims' heads. ..”(Mayne)
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2 This is the root of the gender confusion present within Don Juan. Raised by his mother, Don Juan has no strong male influences. This tempers his fierce masculinity with a more feminine sensitivity and a penchant for falling in love. The idea of a very strong female character is presented first with the mother and then later on, as each of Don Juan’s lovers push the relationship and seem to be more dominant and in control than the protagonist himself. This begins with Donna Julia, friend of Don Juan’s mother. She was beautiful and
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course ENG 52-11 taught by Professor Ozdek during the Fall '07 term at GWU.

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Romantic Period Gender Roles and Sexuality in Byrons Don Juan

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