Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Kit Fryatt
Bullies, Bullied and Bystanders:
Consent, Coercion and Detachment: Sexuality in English Public-School Novels, 1905-1953
Non Refereed Paper/Abstract
Optional Fields
This paper explores the representation of sexual relationships between boys in a selection of English public-school fiction of the first half of the twentieth century. Allusions to such relationships are oblique and often fleeting, but frequent; the subject, often deemed unmentionable, is in fact one which exerts a considerable fascination. Some of the texts I will discuss include Horace Annesley Vachell, The Hill (1905) Alec Waugh, The Loom of Youth (1917), E.F. Benson, David Blaize (1916), Ernest Raymond, Tell England (1922), Julian Hall, The Senior Commoner (1931). The typical pattern of such relationships, between a younger boy and an older, with the latter sometimes having the power of corporal punishment over his junior, means that considerable issues of consent, coercion and power are raised (and sometimes, as in The Loom of Youth, discussed in as much detail as the prevailing code of censorship will allow), and yet they belong, for all the writers concerned, to a different mental category to that of ‘bullying’. The typical English public-school novel thus offers a contrast to contemporaneous European examples such as Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless (1906) in which sexuality and victimisation are inextricable. Furthermore, the elliptical manner in which such relationships are handled in the English novel means that the protagonist or point of view character is frequently an uninvolved bystander; the partial exception to this, David Blaize, is discussed in some detail in my paper. Finally, I consider the influence of these texts on one of the most important and influential British novels of gay life of the mid-twentieth century, Mary Renault’s The Charioteer (1953).
Mater Dei Insitute of Education