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The Ruling Passion British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire by Christopher Lane

The Ruling Passion British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire


The Ruling Passion British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire by Christopher Lane

In The Ruling Passion, Christopher Lane examines the relationship between masculinity, homosexual desire, and empire in British colonialist and imperialist fictions at the turn of the twentieth century. Questioning the popular assumption that Britain's empire functioned with symbolic efficiency on sublimated desire, this book presents a counterhistory of the empire's many layers of conflict and ambivalence. Through attentive readings of sexual and political allegory in the work of Kipling, Forster, James, Beerbohm, Firbank, and others-and deft use of psychoanalytic theory-The Ruling Passion interprets turbulent scenes of masculine identification and pleasure, power and mastery, intimacy and antagonism. By foregrounding the shattering effects of male homosexuality and interracial desire, and by insisting on the centrality of unconscious fantasy and the death drive, The Ruling Passion examines the startling recurrence of colonial failure in narratives of symbolic doubt and ontological crisis. Lane argues compellingly that Britain can progress culturally and politically only when it has relinquished its residual fantasies of global mastery.


Lane's work displays a quite astonishing intellect. The Ruling Passion is expertly researched, demonstrates an authoritative command of theoretical knowledge, and advances our understanding of the complexities involved in representing cross-cultural and cross-class homosocial and homosexual desire. It is a highly original work of considerable academic stature in the rapidly developing field of gay male cultural criticism. -Joseph Bristow, University of York Lane's readings are carried out at a considerably higher level of intellectual sophistication than one finds in most recent work that has dealt with issues of masculinity in imperialist and colonialist fictions. -Michael Moon, Duke University

About the Author

Christopher Lane is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th June 1995


Christopher Lane

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Duke University Press


344 pages


Literary studies: general
Cultural studies



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