Imperial Masculinity in Henry Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines": Relationship and Conflict with Femininity and Black Masculinity
door Ünal, Derya
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Seminar paper from the year 2012 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 6.0, University of Basel, language: English, abstract: King Solomon's Mines was written at a time when Victorian society was confronted with a long-term cultural shift that took place towards the fin de siècle. Women's rights movements had emerged since the 1860's. Their demands focused on extending their role in Victorian society and hence threatened the patriarchal establishment. In this milieu, male writers perceived these female advancements, which also took place in literature, as jeopardy of their own creative space. Many female writers were writing about social observations, and were thus considered as only writing about the unexciting and ordinary. As a reaction, efforts were made towards reclaiming the novel as a male exclusivity. This process was detectable in the foundation of literature clubs only for men, and the revival of the adventurous, exciting romance. With this came the emergence of literary characters, such as Allan Quatermain, who act as the heroic male and express their patriarchal demands. They can be seen as an attempt to preserve the social position of the male from its own fragmentation.
In this paper, I want to analyze this attempted preservation of white masculinity and its conflict with the notions of race, gender and class from a post-colonial perspective. It is vital to notice that the recuperation of masculinity took place not in the home country, but in the colonies, where its regeneration was still considered possible. As a result, this notion of colonial masculinity is closely aligned with the appearance of Imperialism. For decades, the collective myth of colonialism had been nurtured by the adventurous tales that were circulating in Britain since Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. It intensified again during the Age of Imperialism and stimulated its readers to imitate the heroic protagonist. The new Imperialism presented itself as a purely male sphere of influence and its administration lay entirely in the hands of men. Its masculine representation was further boosted by the appearances of soldiers and hunters as colonial heroes and the supply for its administration was fuelled by the aforementioned crisis of masculinity taking place in later Victorian Britain. The journey to the colonies promised freedom from the restrictions of the male social roles back home, and it opened new possibilities for the development of a new type of masculinity, that of the imperial hero. Victorian Imperialism thus contained and enforced the "masculine imperative".
2010-2013 BA History and English, University of Basel
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