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204Victorian Review EUot's essays, which might have yielded further insights about EUot's strategies of self-presentation. But no one book can do everything, and as it is The Real Life ofMary Ann Evans contributes substantially to our understanding of a remarkable woman and her writings. ROHAN ??GG??? Dalhousie University Donald E. HaU, ed. Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. xn + 244. When the second wave of feminism began in the nineteen sixties and seventies, the scholars who developed the newly-conceptualized disciplines of feminist history and literary criticism sought their foremothers in the Victorian past, and found inspiration, models and documents of tremendous research interest in the feminism of MiUicent Fawcett, George EUot and many others. Thirty years on, the people who are making an academic subject out of "men's studies" and the study of masculinity have looked into the past and come up with Charles Kingsley. The muscularity of Kingsley's reUgious faith, and its expression in his novels and journaUsm, speaks compellingly to their inteUectual interests. They ask how masculinity, and the male body itself, can be regarded as a cultural construct, and they are profoundly concerned with analyzing the male social role. Furthermore, they are eager to project these poUtical and theoretical concerns back to an earlier time. Of the ten essays in this volume, five focus entirely or partly on Kingsley, no other "muscular Christian" is the subject of more than one paper. As several of the contributors point out, Kingsley disliked the term "muscular Christianity," and preferred to speak of "Christian manliness." The difficulty about terminology highlights the defect in this book's approach: the Victorians subordinated the muscularity to the Christianity, whereas these writers put them the other way around. Hall states in his introduction that earlier studies such as Norman Vance's The Sinews of the Spirit (1985) stressed the Christianity, whereas his contributors wish to "address the muscularity of the same men, while they attempt never to lose sight of the other half of the phrase." Unfortunately these scholars too often fail to come to terms with Victorian theology and Victorian faith, in their focus on how Kingsley, Hughes and others used "the ideologically charged and Reviews205 aggressively poised male body as a point ofreference in and determiner of a masculinist economy of signification and (all too often) degradation" (9). Their lists of works cited read like a nouvelle cuisine restaurant menu, plenty of Foucault, Irigary and Derrida as weU as the newer scholars who have begun to work on masculinity as a subject — but not much of the plain food of what the Victorians themselves had to say about the Uves and the texts of the "muscular Christians." And as the apologetic parenthesis suggests, HaU and his contributors never let the reader forget their awareness that the men with whom they are concerned stand accused of victimizing women, working class people, and colonial subjects. Nevertheless they claim a ground for their subject, since "Constructions of differing political, regional, national, and more recently, sexual identities among men have always worked to undermine any sense of a united phallic front" (6). Muscular Christianity is divided into three parts. Under the heading "Foundations of Muscular Christianity", David Rosen discusses how Kingsley used the Platonic concept of thumos as a way to understand his own sexuaUty as well as to express the masculinity of his Uterary persona. HaU writes about Christian sociaUsm, the way in which F.D. Maurice and others portrayed their intellectual encounter with the masculinity of the Chartists. The article by CJ. W.-L. Wee tackles the unstable way in which Kingsley dealt with issues ofrace and ethnicity: when he wrote about "primitive" peoples he "appropriated [the ''primitive"] as a category to disrupt modernist conceptions of nation and empire" (71). The second part of Muscular Christianity moves on to "Varieties of muscular Christianity." Laura Fasick examines the way that Kingsley portrayed women in his novels: he used contemporary scientific concepts, such as the theory of degeneration, to support a model in which the correct gender role for men was to be aggressive, and for women patiently to endure assault and victimization. The bodies of Thomas...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 204-206
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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