Scarecrows of Chivalry
English Masculinities after Empire
Publication Year: 2013
Exploring the fate of the ideal of the English gentleman once the empire he was meant to embody declined, Praseeda Gopinath argues that the stylization of English masculinity became the central theme, focus, and conceit for many literary texts that represented the "condition of Britain" in the 1930s and the immediate postwar era. From the early writings of George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh to works by poets and novelists such as Philip Larkin, Ian Fleming, Barbara Pym, and A. S. Byatt, the author shows how Englishmen trafficking in the images of self-restraint, governance, decency, and detachment in the absence of a structuring imperial ethos became what the poet Larkin called "scarecrows of chivalry." Gopinath's study of this masculine ideal under duress reveals the ways in which issues of race, class, and sexuality constructed a gendered narrative of the nation.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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When Eric Blair decided to adopt the pseudonym George Orwell— based on England’s patron saint and the little river that ran beyond the garden of his childhood home—he deliberately crafted what he believed to be a quintessentially English everyman persona: an Englishman who was patriotic, but reasonably so; one who believed in the English countryside as...
1. Manly Independent Men
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In order to track the changes in hegemonic masculinity, the change from gentleman to post- gentleman, in the middle decades of the twentieth century, it is necessary to go back to the Victorian ideal of the gentleman. As I delineated in the introduction, many of the protagonists in the literature of the interwar and postwar period rework, adopt, and...
2. Out of Place
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Paul penny feather, the supinely good protagonist of Decline and Fall, contends that gentlemen, the backbone of the English middle classes and the imperial nation, are defi ned by their commitment to honor. Pennyfeather’s idea of honor, however, is a “scorn of irregular perquisites,” a narrative stroke that is masterful in its irony: the grand and chivalric idea...
3. An Orphaned Manliness
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Anthony Powell characterized George Orwell as being half in love with the thing he was rebelling against, since Orwell roundly dismissed the socioeconomic hierarchy of England as outmoded and unjust but nevertheless relied upon its tenets for his ideas of a “decent” English...
4. “One of Those Old- Type Natural Fouled-Up Guys”
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The British nation from the end of the Second World War to the mid- 1960s is a “hybrid affair, assembled out of tales about the past as well as narratives of the future” (Conekin et al. 3). As theories of the nation have frequently pointed out, the Janus- faced nation simultaneously looks backward to “invented” tradition, invoking the collective “memory” of...
5. “Moulded and Shaped”
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Moving from Philip Larkin’s self-reflective and self-conscious masculine poetics to the aggressive yet neurotic stylizations of the Englishman in the novels of John Wain and, (not so) surprisingly, Ian Fleming reveals another facet of the literary transition into postwar masculinity. Altered by and within governmental practices of the welfare state, the...
6. Writing Women,Reading Men
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The dissolution of the code of English gentlemanliness and the simultaneous adaptation of specific traits of that code in the literature of postwar, post- imperial England signifies both the decline of the English gentleman and the paradoxical persistence of the ideals that define Englishness and Englishmen. The focus in earlier chapters has been on middle- to...
Epilogue: The Postcolonial Gentleman
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This book has examined literary iterations of the simultaneous disintegration and mutation of the gentlemanly ideal in the immediate postwar period as the imperial nation redefined and rediscovered itself. Though the texts that I have considered illustrate insular Englishmen by the English, the argument focuses on how race and empire shape gentlemanliness...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013