By Sarah Cole
The terrain of masculine fellowship offers a big context for realizing key literary beneficial properties of the modernist interval. Sarah Cole's exam of the literary and cultural background of 20th century masculine intimacy considers such an important subject matters 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 battle poet. Cole argues that those dramas of compelling and infrequently tortured male friendship have helped to outline a specific voice in the literary canon.
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Additional info for Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War
Even earlier in the century, as Timothy d’Arch Smith chronicles in his thorough study of the Uranians, the group’s writerly utopianism, with its ideal of perfect boy worship, often met extreme resistance in the real world. If Carpenter had established friendship as a zone free of conﬂict and full of potential for social regeneration, the historical realities surrounding Uranian discourse were often punitive and unrelenting. In the Uranian landscape, it is men who dominate – their bodies and activities, their forms of beauty – often hailed at the direct expense of women.
We should notice, moreover, that Woolf represents the lifelessness of the schools in language that mocks the schools’ pretentions of virility: the “shrivelled pines” are an image of failed masculinity at the very institution that promises to create it. The schools might attempt to make men, but in fact real masculinity abides precisely in the relationships that thwart ofﬁcial school policy. Yet Woolf ’s withered phalluses also suggest a strange web of ambivalence around the idea of male friendship.
If muscular Christianity was meant to provide the overarching moral force at the schools, however, the role accorded to serious religious observance deﬁnitively shrank as the century progressed. As Thomas Arnold’s speciﬁc legacy waned, a suspicion of excessive piety, rather than its practice, became the norm (by all accounts, Arnold was a genuinely pious person whose vision for Rugby involved religious study). As Forster beautifully captures it in A Passage to India: “Ronny’s religion was of the sterilized Public School brand, which never goes bad, even in the tropics.
Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War by Sarah Cole