In Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy (2013) Helena Gurfinkel analyses the ways in which the literature preceding, during and postdating the Edwardian period presents father figures, sons, and parental-filial relationships that deviate from the traditional conception of oppression and submission which, she argues, typify our conventional understanding of patriarchy. While the conventional patriarch was an important figure within late-Victorian and Modern British literature and culture, Gurfinkel suggests, there nevertheless also existed what she terms the “unconventional” or “queer” patriarch.
As her title suggests, Gurfinkel understands the notion of a conventional patriarch as the law-giving father: the male, heterosexual head of the household who asserts his social, God-given dominance over his family and enforces devotion in women and children by establishing boundaries that they may not cross. She claims that this economically, socially and intellectually powerful paterfamilias is traditionally the figure identified by cultural, historical and literary criticisms of patriarchy. Continue reading