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Victorian Homosocial Literary Themes

In order to appreciate the linkages between late Victorian/Edwardian homosocial literary themes and the social context in which they can be said to have emerged, it will be useful to establish a working definition of homosocial. That term is widely attributed to Gayle Rubin and Eve Sedgewick, both of whom use it to describe the social bonding between members of the same sex. According to Rubin, homosocial desire and/or behavior can be, but is not necessarily, a precursor of homosexual behavior, functioning on something of a continuum of sentience and experience. Sedgwick develops the concept of homosocial desire as a cultural artifact, programmatically locating its substance in English texts that in part problematize heterosexual relationships by way of homosocial bonds. For Sedgwick, indeed, the manifest intent even of the author need not be of critical concern, for, as she puts it:

The very centrality of [the Western literary canon] and its seemingly almost infinite elasticity suggest that no one can know in advance where the limits of a gay-centered inquiry are to be drawn, or where a gay theorizing of and through even the hegemonic high culture of the Euro-American tradition may need or be able to lead. . . . Obviously, this analysis suggests as one indispensable approach to the traditional Euro-American canon a pedagogy that could treat it neither as something quite exploded nor as something quite stable.

The narrative action of Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and She, Kipling's Kim, and Burroughs's Tarzan in various ways mirrors what is known about how Victorian-to-Edwardian arbiters of popular culture sought to exert influence over its content, values, and shape. It would be difficult to find a more compelling example of such a "type" than General Robert Baden-Powell, who in 1908 founded the Scouts Association in Britain and in 1910 brought the so-called Scout Movement to the US, reconfigured as the Boy Scouts of America...

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Victorian Homosocial Literary Themes. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:43, November 29, 2021, from