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

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Duke University Press, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 326 pages
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.

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Page 193 - And what there is to conquer By strength and submission, has already been discovered Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope To emulate -but there is no competition There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again : and now, under conditions That seem unpropitious.
Page 176 - I am black, as if bereaved of light. My mother taught me underneath a tree, And, sitting down before the heat of day, She took me on her lap and kissed me, And, pointing to the East, began to say: 'Look on the rising sun: there God...
Page 75 - The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.
Page 155 - It's what I want. It's what you want." But the horses didn't want it — they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there.
Page 139 - Thus from the point of view of psychoanalysis the exclusive sexual interest felt by men for women is also a problem that needs elucidating and is not a self-evident fact based upon an attraction that is ultimately of a chemical nature.
Page vii - But the contact with pure unmitigated savagery, with primitive nature and primitive man, brings sudden and profound trouble into the heart.
Page 99 - When once the truth is grasped that one's own personality is only a ridiculous and aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknown the attainment of serenity is not very far off. Then there remains nothing but the surrender to one's impulses, the fidelity to 1 A wedding present.
Page 17 - ... a tale from which pieces have been raked out is like a fire that has been poked. One does not know that the operation has been performed, but everyone feels the effect.
Page 30 - Not a man of them under six feet. I was next to Dravot, and behind me was twenty men of the regular Army. Up comes the girl, and a strapping wench she was, covered with silver and turquoises but white as death, and looking back every minute at the priests. " 'She'll do,' said Dan, looking her over. 'What's to be afraid of, lass? Come and kiss me.
Page 91 - When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.

About the author (1995)

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

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