Heinz Tschachler’s Washington Irving and the Fantasy of Masculinity: Escaping the Woman Within


  • Brian Elliot


“Like other men who were becoming frustrated by efforts to keep up with the relentless pressure to modernize,” Heinz Tschachler contends in this study’s prologue,
Irving was obsessed with being a man, and, suffering from his perceived femininity,
throughout his career was questing for the self-image of a man whose masculinity
seemed secure. He finally found it in George Washington, whose image allowed him to
come to terms with his own purportedly ‘female’ defects, especially his shyness and
uncertainty. (10-11)
From this central idea Tschachler sets out to explore the intersection of Washington Irving’s life and his works through a psychoanalytic examination of masculinity as it appears across the author’s career, from the “troubled masculinities” of earlier texts like A History of New York
author’s own struggles with his “anima consciousness”—the “woman within” of the book’s subtitle and Tschachler’s Jung-inspired term for the “feminized masculinity” (8) that plagued Irving with self-doubt and insecurity much of his life. Thoroughly researched and solid as an introduction to many of the broader scholarly conversations involving Irving, Tshachler’s scholarship here offers in-depth analysis of the “jostling of ideologies of manhood in a highly conflicted emotional drama about the successful life,” both as Irving lived it and as he explored it through his writings (10-11).