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KIPLING'S STALKY AND CO.: RESITUATING THE EMPIRE AND THE "EMPIRE BOY" DON RANDALL Queen's University To contextualize this writing, I should say mat my recent scholarship focuses on a figure I call "die empire boy," which becomes prominent in British fictions in the latter half of die nineteenth century. My basic thesis is that this figure recasts as "adolescence" die doubts, anxieties, incertitudes, and ambivalencies that begin, in this period, to trouble British imperial subjectivity and ideology. Critique of "die empire boy" enables, most notably, a revaluation of "die process of identification in die negotiations ofcultural politics" (Bhabha 233). Imperial subjectivity, die subjectivity constituted by the British imperial project and die crosscultural confrontations that project necessarily entails, does not, in Kipling's fictions of the "boy," manifest its deep and dependable "embeddedness" in die culture of die British "homeland." It is, on die contrary, a highly contingent formation upon the limen that emerges between the cultures of die imperial "home" and die colonial "outland." Kipling's "boy" — his Mowgli, Stalky, or Kim — situates himself on die in-betweens of cultures in confrontation; the figure occupies a space of undecidability, which Kipling writes, very tellingly, as "adolescence." This "empire boy" is a "hybrid sign" (Bhabha 207), forged in die press of cultures in agonistic confrontation, an imperial figure allowing for (partial) acknowledgment and controlled, delimited representation of "transculturation" in die "contact zone" of die empire (Pratt 6).1 Yet, when viewed in die light of Anne McClintock's recent Imperial Leather, die figure also reveals die lineaments of die fetish; it portrays desire marked by die crisis and contradiction diat must find their place in imperial imaginings. Hybrid and fetishized, a site of divided cultural investments and identifications, Kipling's "boy" offers very ambivalent service to die discourse of late nineteendi-century British imperialism. To orient, more specifically, die work of diis paper, I'll begin with a critical proposition: in "The Contents and Discontents of Kipling's Victorian Review 24.2 (Winter 1998) 164Victorian Review Imperialism," Benita Parry asserts that "Kipling's writings moved empire from the margins of English fiction to its center without interrogating the official metropolitan culture" (51). I intend to challenge Parry's assertion using the school stories of Stalky and Co., which began to appear in die late 189Os and were first published in book form in 1899, and which recount the antics of a trio of schoolboys, Stalky, MTurk, and Beetle, at die United Services College in Devonshire, England — a real historical locale fictionally rendered. G11 argue, first that Kipling's empire, as presented in Stalky &. Co., is not divided between a stable, metropolitan center and a changeful periphery, but is rather one great, intimately interconnected assembly, a relatively seamless whole. Kipling's envisioning of empire, I will subsequently argue, reflects — indeed heralds — a new "emergent global logic" (Wegner 132) of modern European imperialism, a breaking down of center/periphery ideology in favor of a more continuously applied, globalized view. Finally, I will suggest that Kipling's perspective upon imperial globalization troubles conventional imperial inscriptions of borders and barriers between races and cultures — the very borders and barriers that serve as cornerstones of racist and Eurocentric imperial ideology. As Isabel Quigly affirms, Stalky and Co. "is the only school story . . . in which life at school is shown as directly parallel with life in the Empire; ... no book went as far as Stalky &. Co. in making exact comparisons" (116). Here, I think, is a principal innovation that sets Stalky & Co. apart from its predecessors, such as Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857). The organizing socio-cultural referent of Hughes's novel is "the whole empire on which the sun never sets," and his beloved Browns are the indispensable protectors of "that empire's stability" (5).2 Yet Hughes's seminal school story serves to establish the public school as an insular, class-specific "little world," one that must be understood, first and foremost, on its own terms. On one hand, it is the structural specificity of the Rugby public-school world diat enables it to serve the empire: school experience inscribes attitudes, values, codes of conduct that ostensibly, can be transported to the distant...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 163-174
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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