Industrial Gentlemanliness: The fin-de-siècle adventure hero in text and image, 1870-1914
AuthorsHall, Leo J.
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AbstractThis thesis identifies and examines representations of English heroic masculinities in imperialist adventure stories at the end of the nineteenth century. It contends that fin-de-siècle adventure stories are products of Victorian industrial, technological, and scientific developments. The chapters trace this context through analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883), Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (1912), Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912). A significant aspect of the texts is how their perspectives on the English identities of their heroes are informed by their authors’ ‘outsider’ status, for Stevenson and Conan Doyle were Scottish (the latter of Irish Catholic descent), Burroughs was American, and Verne was French. The Introduction to the thesis argues that central to identifying the relationship between the adventure hero and industrialisation are the original illustrations that were printed with the stories. These create intertextual and paratextual frames, showing how the context of industrial modernity moulds the fin-de-siècle masculine body and mind. The partnership between text and illustrations exposes the complex relationship between industrial modernity and heroic masculinity, particularly, the construction of an idealised gentlemanly identity and gendered performance. Stevenson claimed that penny dreadfuls influenced his development of characters and the action of Treasure Island, and Chapter One traces the impact of nineteenth-century print culture and the growth and dissemination of popular fiction in relation to both Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Burroughs’s Tarzan. Simultaneously, the influence of mid-century discourses regarding ideas of self-help and industriousness are analysed in the portrayals of Stevenson’s characters, especially the pirate Long John Silver. Chapter Two focuses on the topic of mobility and how the industrialised travel space is negotiated by adventurers. Verne’s Around the World demonstrates how international travel became more accessible, and how the speed of travel impacts on the curiosity of the orientalist traveller. Despite Phileas Fogg’s lack of engagement with his journey, a connection is established between the traveller and his immediate industrialised travel space. This is accentuated when Fogg is forced to use ‘exotic’ modes of transport, which ironically serve to delineate his Englishness, especially when placed against the other voices and behaviours of his fellow travel companions. Chapter Three identifies the psychological and physiological impact of science, industrialisation and technology upon Conan Doyle’s adventurers, showing how this is exposed during encounters abroad. The identity of the adventure heroes in these novels is moulded by a Western masculine heteronormative construct that is characterised by a visible gendered performance. This performance includes the body and its clothing and accessories. As the thesis argues, the fin-de-siècle adventure hero has a Janus-faced identity; constructed against a romanticised vision of the past and a nostalgic ideal of gentlemanliness, but also forward-looking in terms of forging a future for Britain through the imperialist dream. The thesis demonstrates that the adventure story is a paradox: an outcome of invention, scientific, technological and industrial progress, yet also a supposed escape from nineteenth-century industrial modernity.
CitationHall, L. J. (2021). Industrial gentlemanliness: The fin-de-siècle adventure hero in text and image, 1870-1914 [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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