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Scarecrows of Chivalry

Scarecrows of Chivalry: English Masculinities after Empire

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Scarecrows of Chivalry
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3383-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: English Masculinities in Transition
    (pp. 1-21)

    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 the heart of the nation, in the English people, in “decency,” and in the quotidian virtues of life. He emphasized common sense, egalitarianism, and the empirical perspective, while still believing in the long-standing traditions of a national culture, looking forward and back at...

  5. 1 Manly Independent Men: (De)constructing the English Gentleman
    (pp. 22-40)

    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 disavow gentle manly traits–such as restraint, chivalry, disinterestedness, service, and detachment–which are also the virtues of the English/Britishtout court. To study how gentlemanliness affected subsequent iterations of national masculinity, we must consider, albeit briefly, how and why the gentleman...

  6. 2 Out of Place: Evelyn Waugh and the Retreating Gentleman
    (pp. 41-65)

    Paul pennyfeather, the supinely good protagonist ofDecline and Fall, contends that gentlemen, the backbone of the English middle classes and the imperial nation, are defined 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 of gentlemanly honor is reduced to a refusal of tips (54). We have here the quintessence of the early and most beloved Evelyn Waugh, celebrating and damning a way of life within the same brief conversational moment with little to no editorial or narrative...

  7. 3 An Orphaned Manliness: George Orwell and the Bovex Man
    (pp. 66-88)

    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 society (A. Taylor 13). Orwell was both a contrarian and a contradictory figure. This is evident in the zeal with which he is claimed by both the Right and the Left as a defender of truth and justice. In his contradictory allegiances–his love for the past coexisting with his desire to alter the present inflected by...

  8. 4 “One of Those Old-Type Natural Fouled-Up Guys”: Posting the Gentleman in Philip Larkin’s Poetry
    (pp. 89-116)

    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 the imagined community, and forward into its own future.¹ Philip Larkin’s poetry both emblematizes and brings into being, through an English manly inflection, the quotidian, poignantly Janus-faced, and cautiously hopeful state of postwar, post-imperial England, as it captures the contradictory impulses...

  9. 5 “Moulded and Shaped”: John Wain, Ian Fleming, and Threshold Masculinities
    (pp. 117-164)

    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 Englishman, in such signature postwar novels as Wain’sHurry on Down(1953) and Kingsley Amis’s better-knownLucky Jim(1954), embodies the “new man” or the post-gentleman. The “new man” emerges through the extrapolation, mutation, and repudiation of gentlemanly traits. The constituent traits of the new hero/Englishman–common sense, decency,...

  10. 6 Writing Women, Reading Men: A. S. Byatt, Barbara Pym, and the Post-Gentlemen
    (pp. 165-203)

    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 lower-class male protagonists who struggle against the weight of an inherited upper-class gentlemanliness that emerged during the halcyon expansiveness of the empire. The struggle occurs in tandem with their attempt to reshape codes of gentlemanliness to suit the possibilities of the welfare state, with its...

  11. Epilogue: The Postcolonial Gentleman
    (pp. 204-218)

    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 and its subsequent adaptations. This epilogue turns away from the post-imperial Englishman to consider the opposite end of the dialectic: the postcolonial appropriations of gentlemanliness. It suggests that the study of such literary (cultural and historical) representations in former colonies is the complement to the alterations in, and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 219-244)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-260)
  14. Index
    (pp. 261-274)