Tuesday, May 17, 2005


So, where have we progressed to in our course of study? We are looking at a series of British post-war fiction that gives voice to a large number of males between the ages of fifteen and thirty who have an openly antagonistic relationship with the dominant authorities. As times change, the type of people who (as we shall see) hold power change substantially. What is constant, however, is their fear and repression of young men, and the use of derogatory epiphets to define them: "thugs," "hooligans," "teddy boys," "mods," and, currently, "lads."
The attitude of the authorities toward the lads is encapsualted perfectly by our course tag - a quotation from Margaret Atwood:
"Men's bodies are the most dangerous things on Earth"
We are now completing our examination of Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. which I am arguing is a kind of Urtext (see OED) for twentieth-century British masculinity. In addition to understanding its literary formulation, lecture identified a set of fundamental qualities -- which I refer to as the Stalky model -- that subsequent novelists of troubled masuclinity work both with and against.
These qualities are summarised as follows:

  1. Close-knit group of contrasting male companions.
  2. Unspoken (taboo'd) respect for the larger system.
  3. Resistance, criticism & forms of rebellion written into the system as an outlet against revolution.
  4. "stalkiness" - individual cunning and pluck - beats brawn and size.
  5. A kind and sapient Head.
  6. Stoic-Christian blend that is fully orthodox to neither.
  7. Under the Stoic-Christian ethic, judicious violence is built into the system.
  8. Centrality of performance as a defining value: its ultimate form is a rite of passage.
  9. An authority-confidante -- typically an ecclesiastic - as a personified conscience.

Wednesday's lecture will complete our study of Kipling, discuss the Stalky themes in the course film The Browning Version and introduce Graham Greene and his novel Brighton Rock.

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