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Clubs, secret societies and male quest romance

Thomas Michael Greene, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The psychological realm in which late nineteenth century male romance takes place is not simply an anarchic land liberated from the conventional constraints of Victorian morality. Rather it is a complex male space that reflects the dynamics, protocols and contradictions of nineteenth century middle-class masculine relations as embodied in male fraternal associations such as public schools, secret societies, and the clubland of London's West End. A historical survey of London clubs and secret societies demonstrates the characteristics and social function of these institutions in defining and sustaining prevailing models of masculinity. An examination of Rudyard Kipling's Kim in relation to Masonic symbolism and initiation rites shows the didactic role of boys' fiction in transmitting and sustaining the imperial masculine ideology. A reading of H. Rider Haggard's African novels demonstrates the dynamics of idealized middle-class fraternal relations. Finally, an analysis of Bram Stoker's novels illustrates issues of male communities in dealing with alien others. In an environment in which men perceived an increasing threat from outside social forces, the network of fraternal associations, quest romance and masculine ideologies created a dynamic that illuminates a more complex reading of the culture and literature of the genre.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Greene, Thomas Michael, "Clubs, secret societies and male quest romance" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056232.