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By E. Godfrey

Through contemplating the disruptive capability of age disparate marriages in nineteenth-century British literature, Godfrey bargains provocative new readings of canonical texts together with Don Juan, Jane Eyre, and Bleak condo.

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13 Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752) indicates that January–May plots were in danger of becoming trite by the mid-eighteenth century. Lennox attributes the January–May marriage of the heroine Arabella’s parents to conventional social and sexual motivations—“the Marquis, though now advanced in Years, cast his Eyes on a young Lady, greatly inferior to himself in Quality, but whose Beauty and good Sense promised him an agreeable Companion” (18)—but quickly passes over their relationship, and Arabella’s mother dies soon after childbirth.

She acts As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store She must not own, but cherish’d more the while, For that compression in its burning core. 571–73) Julia’s initial commitment to a wife’s faithfulness is so extreme that it suggests childlike naïveté more than hypocrisy, yet she feels herself so capable of fidelity that she puts herself to the test. 609–11). 624). Byron encourages parodic representations of masculinity and femininity with keen awareness of their disruptive consequences. 1090).

77–78). 110, 104). Yet, in Behn’s hands, maneuverings of the January–May theme are at once more explicit and more ambiguous. The audience and characters of her plays share the typical fun with gender that the January–May marriage’s power reversal carries, but by the end of the drama, the plays present gender dynamics far more complicated than a Chaucerian world upside down. While Behn, as a female playwright, maintains a vested interest in gender subversion, she is skeptical about the ability of the January–May theme to resolve gender inequalities.

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