I unsex'd my dress: Lord Byron's seduction of gender in "The Corsair", "Lara", and "Don Juan"

Alexis Spiceland Lee

Abstract

The goal of this project is to posit a theory of how Byron's texts, specifically through the development of his hero, construct gender and sexuality as styles of seduction that resist easy classification by binary systems. I propose that Byron's works characterize gender through ironic performances of seduction that, because they reveal that binary structures lack a stable core, dissolve systemic differentiation and thus fatally complicate any attempt to force the individual into rigid categories of gender or sexual identity. Byron's works deploy seduction as a tactic of ironic representation of both gender and sexual practice that is necessarily multiplicitous and diffuse. Byron develops his hero throughout his canon through the hero's interaction with himself and with others whom the hero is reflected by and in turn reflects. The texts The Corsair, Lara, and Don Juan have been chosen as they contain representative examples of the Byronic Hero figure as well as illustrate major developments in the hero's progress toward a vision of gender and sexual orientation free of recuperation by social and cultural systems of proscription.