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Title:'Scarecrows of Chivalry': The Literature of Post -Imperial English Masculinity
Author(s):Gopinath, Praseeda
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Jed Esty; Valente, Joseph
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:My project, "Scarecrows of Chivalry: The Literature of Post-Imperial English Masculinity," establishes a genealogy for an imperially inflected code of English gentlemanliness and examines the literary mutations and revisions of this code in the period after empire. In order to understand both the continuing power and partial disintegration of a ruling-class masculine ideal in the mid-twentieth century, the first half of the project analyses what Perry Anderson calls "the fetishised criterion of the gentleman" in the works of Thomas Hughes, E. M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, and George Orwell. With its emphasis on the longue duree of the Victorian gentleman, the project stresses the post-imperial break-up of conventional languages and forms of masculinity after 1945, expanding the standard analytic frames of reference such as the Welfare State and rising feminism. For instance, I consider Philip Larkin's adaptation of the lyric form especially pertinent to his examinations of inherited manliness: his distinctly ironic and restrained poetic personae represent encoded manly traits even as these traits contort with the pressures of narrowed English horizons. Similarly, in the works of Kingsley Amis and John Wain the male protagonists confront the crucial task of re-establishing their masculinity in a devolving England no longer able to venerate cosmopolitan gentility, making visible the necessary entanglement of new-fangled masculinity and national tradition. Finally, the early works of A.S Byatt and Margaret Drabble telescope the literary and masculine struggle of the new post-war Englishman from the perspective of a female outsider whose self-conscious movement towards an independent subjectivity proves to be a delicate maneuver between the dual pressures of encoded gender expectations and the defensive aggression of the "new man," during a time when "kitchen sink" reality increasingly symbolizes the shrinking of national horizons. In foregrounding the empire and its after-effects within the broader narrative of Welfare State democratization, I propose a paradigm that links English retrenchment to a new rhetoric of British modernization. The "Scarecrows of Chivalry" who have come to define postwar English writing thus embody a Janus-faced nation as they mediate between a nostalgic mourning for lost greatness and a revitalized native culture.
Issue Date:2006
Description:302 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3223598
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2006

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