Men of their Words
The Poetics of Masculinity in George Sand's Fiction

Nigel Harkness

Legenda (General Series)


24 August 2007  •  170pp

ISBN: 978-1-904350-87-3 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-351195-91-1 (Taylor & Francis ebook)


Whereas the centrality of femininity to nineteenth-century French fiction has been the focus of widespread critical attention, masculinity has, until recently, received little sustained treatment in either the literary or socio-historical domains. In this book, Nigel Harkness uses the fiction of George Sand (1804-1876), the pre-eminent woman writer of the period, to explore questions of masculinity as they pertain to the nineteenth-century French novel, and to map out new approaches to the study of literary masculinity. Drawing on contemporary theories of gender and narrative, Harkness reveals how Sand's novels repeatedly focus on a nexus of language, masculinity and power, in which narrative is both a vehicle for the expression of manhood, and a site where masculinity is discursively performed. Masculinity is thus reconfigured in Sand's fiction as an identity constituted as much through words as through actions. Analysis of the performances of masculinity staged in Sand's novels opens onto an exploration of gendered processes of literary representation: the links between masculinity and the doxa, the equation of writing and power, the homosocial function of acts of narration, and the masculinity of authorship and authority.

Nigel Harkness is Lecturer in French at Queen's University Belfast.


  • ‘This meticulously researched study makes a compelling argument to renegotiate the importance of masculinity in Sand's writing... His persuasive conclusions will therefore be of interest not only to scholars working on nineteenth-century France, but indeed to the wider fields of gender studies and literary criticism.’Forum for Modern Language Studies April 2009, 224)
  • ‘Nigel Harkness's aim in this excellent monograph is to liberate George Sand's masculinity from the restrictive autobiographical sphere of cross dressing and male pseudonymity and to situate it rather as the driving force of her literary texts. Drawing on a corpus of fifteen novels, he produces a series of authoritative close readings that demonstrate the extent to which the thinking of masculinity, and its inscription in literary representation, are inextricable for Sand.’ — Diana Knight, French Studies 64.2, April 2010
  • ‘Harkness's focused tracking of Sand's performances of poetic masculinity throughout this book undoubtedly furthers critical understanding of the highly complex and multiple narrative positions adopted in her fiction, especially its meta-discursive dimensions. His sensitive and often provocative close readings of Sand's works, especially Indiana and Lélia (in chapters 2 and 5), will inspire fresh appraisals of established Sand criticism.’ — Mary Orr, Modern and Contemporary France 17.3, August 2009

Bibliography entry:

Harkness, Nigel, Men of their Words: The Poetics of Masculinity in George Sand's Fiction (Legenda, 2007)

First footnote reference: 35 Nigel Harkness, Men of their Words: The Poetics of Masculinity in George Sand's Fiction (Legenda, 2007), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Harkness, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Harkness, Nigel. 2007. Men of their Words: The Poetics of Masculinity in George Sand's Fiction (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Harkness 2007: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Harkness 2007: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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