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Reviews Bradstock, Andrew, Sean Gill, Anne Hogan, and Sue Morgan, eds., Masculinity andSpirituality in Victorian Culture. New York: Palgrave, 2001. xi + 232. $55.00 US. It is always difficult to know when to recommend a collection of essays for purchase by a library or individual scholar. Inevitably in a group of a dozen or more essays, there will be a few very weak ones, a few very strong ones, and many that fall somewhere in between. In the present collection, Masculinity andSpirituality in Victorian Culture, the editors offer us fourteen relatively brief essays (running approximately 15 pages each, including notes); all are wellresearched and none is actually in the 'Very weak" category. That is the good news. On the other hand, only four essays strike me as particularly innovative in their argument or engaging in their manner of presentation, which is only 60 or so pages of truly exceptional work out of a book that runs about four times that length. At US $55.00 in price, Masculinity andSpirituality in Victorian Culture is therefore difficult to recommend unequivocally to cost-conscious individuals, though certainly it will be of interest to many libraries. Perhaps the best I can do here is discuss the four noteworthy essays at length to help readers make their own informed choices. The collection as a whole sets out its particular mission in clear and succinct fashion, as it "deploys a multidisciplinary strategy in seeking to delineate some of the complex interrelationships between religion and gender which existed in Victorian society" (1). It takes as its starting point the recognition that "Victorian configurations of femininity and masculinity" were "unstable, multiple and changing" (1), and states that its overarching purpose is to break new ground by suggesting that there were distinctive patterns of men's spiritual experience, and to examine these not only within a wide range of denominational and religious contexts, but also to do so by extending the definition of spirituality beyond the constricting limits imposed by traditional ecclesiastical historians. (2-3) Certainly there is a commendable unity to the discussion overall, as 94volume 27 number 2 Reviews the essays reference commonly several important previous investigations of the topic, including Herbert Sussman's Victorian Masculinities (1995), my Muscular Christianity: Embodying the VictorianAge (1994), and Norman Vance's TheSinews of theSpirit (1985). Many of the essays discuss relatively familiar individuals such as Charles Kingsley, Edward Pusey, andJohn Henry Newman, all with competence and insight. The best, however, mark out interesting new terrains of investigation that truly fulfill the multidisciplinary promise of the introduction. The first of these is Carol Marie Engelhardt's "Victorian Masculinity and the Virgin Mary," which explores the first two writers mentioned above, along with Frederick Faber, to show how [e]ach used the Virgin Mary to define his masculinity. In describing the Virgin Mary, each was also describing an idealized image of himself as a man. Examining the views that Kingsley, Pusey and Faber held regarding the Virgin Mary will illuminate the role of the feminine in the construction of Victorian masculinity and suggest that these men had more in common than any of them might have liked to admit. (45-46) Englehardt does an admirable job at reading closely the references to the Virgin Mary in the anti-Catholic diatribes of Kingsley to explore how he was in effect "repudiating what he considered to be his own weakness and error in desiring Rome" (47). Linking the gender anxieties underlying the extremity of Kingsley's articulations with similar warnings against Marian devotion in Pusey's writings and tracing both back to the similarly conservative gender politics of these otherwise theologically and liturgically opposed writers, Englehardt teases out a discursive substructure that will make this essay of interest to all Victorianists engaged in gender studies. Her concluding section , in which she then traces the highly conservative gender implications of Faber's unabashed idolatry of the Virgin Mary, represents gender studies at its most supple and stimulating. Similarly innovative is Howard Booth's "Male Sexuality, Religion, and the Problem of Action: John Addington Symonds on Arthur Hugh Victorian Review95 Reviews Clough." What makes this essay so noteworthy is its examination of a critical period in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 94-98
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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