Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Stalky Model of British Masculinity

Here are the twelve elements of British masculinity that comprise the Kipling's 1890s representation of male-ness in Stalky & Co. -- derived by Kipling's genius from historical British culture and forming the inescape centre of gravity for the universe of British boys' book, film and comic for the century that followed.
    1. A Kind and Sapient “Head” as immediate authority.
    2. Male sub-cultures have quasi-automonous existence within a over-arching patriotic system: e.g. Britain. [N.b. Patriotism is implicit but heavily tabooed: vid. "The Flag of Their Country" chapter in Stalky & Co.]
    3. A Chaplain-figure as council and side-access to the Head and the external political system.
    4. Judicious violence encoded equally all levels of the system.
    5. Encouragement of rebelliousness as a means to forestall revolution.
    6. Stalkiness: cunning trumps size.
    7. Stoicism, with Christian admixture, the background code.
    8. Meritocracy through action: successful performance of Masculinity (vid. “If”) determines the individual male's place in leadership hierarchy. [(a.) based on situational performances: i.e. not one permanent alpha-male; (b.) original entrance to Man-hood is by major performance: a Rite of Passage.]
    9. Women are on the margins -- the culture is monosexual – but they represent the external object of desire (the quest trope) once “man”-ness is achieved through culturally-sanctioned performance.
    10. A small group of complementary individual types: vid. The Beatles.
    11. Exclusive shared access to an esoteric code of speech – i.e. slang -- & cultural artifact – e.g. Boy's fiction in Stalky & Co., or the popmusic miscellania in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.
    12. Boyhood is not training for life; rather, Life is boyhood writ large.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Stephen,

Isn't Meritocracy the basis for our society today? People striving to be based on their attributes and accomplishments as oppossed to: where they are from, or who they are.

In fact, this sounds surprisingly like the crux of feminism in the workplace. Striving to be judged on your accomplishments, regardless of what sex you are.

Maybe Kipling was on to something...