Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War by Sarah Cole

By Sarah Cole

The terrain of masculine fellowship offers an immense context for figuring out key literary beneficial properties of the modernist interval. Sarah Cole's exam of the literary and cultural heritage of 20th century masculine intimacy considers such the most important issues because the damaged friendships that permeate Forster's fictions, Lawrence's determined urge to make tradition out of blood brotherhood and the serious bereavement of the struggle poet. Cole argues that those dramas of compelling and sometimes tortured male friendship have helped to outline a specific voice in the literary canon.

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23 Public-school ideology influenced the English and their imperial subjects through several circuits: directly, as men were trained in the schools and steeped in their reigning philosophy; indirectly, as the values and perspectives of this powerful group were transmitted into large-scale educational, political, and cultural practices; and through specifically organized and targeted programs, such as the Boys’ Brigade and the Boy Scouts, aimed at diffusing public-school morality into the working classes.

If the erotics are shepherded in quietly, they effectively transform the passage from an example of youthful sentiment into a depiction of more empathetic, adult desire. Such saturated language about friendship would seem to proceed directly out of Forster’s personal fantasies, to function in part as a sexualization of his humanist ideal. Moreover, when Forster imagines male bonds as a tempting alternative to the confines of the family and its cultural and political authority, he taps into a broader current of turn-of-the-century thought, preoccupied with the rituals that sustain and delimit male relations.

He thus relies on the somewhat paradoxical idea that we can be assured of a spirit of virility among Spartan men because their reverence for the male body was understood and institutionalized entirely in rituals of male comradeship. For Pater’s Spartans, it is male community, more than heterosexual desire, that creates and substantiates masculinity. Pater emphasizes, for instance, the lengthy and rigorous educational system endured by Spartan youths. Spartan schools in Pater’s hands look quite a bit like English public schools, characterized by obedience, discipline, surveillance, and a system of self-governance.

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