Metropolitan Manliness: Ancient Rome, Victorian London, and the Rhetoric of the New, 1880–1914

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Abstract

This article examines how ancient Rome was used by writers of the fin de siècle to discuss the interconnected discourses of masculinity and the metropolis. By the late nineteenth century the London metropolis was at once the glittering capital of empire but had also, after almost a century of urbanization and urban population growth, become a site of overcrowding, disease and perceived degeneration. I suggest that the Roman past, with its twin legacies of imperial splendour and of the decline and fall of that empire, was a far more prominent mechanism for writers to debate the social, moral, and physical condition of London and the metropolitan male who inhabited it, than has previously been acknowledged. By tracing these dual receptions of the Roman past, I present a model of fin-de-siècle manliness whereby ancient Rome stands at the heart of the anxious, even antagonistic, relationship between the New Imperialist and the urban male.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-492
JournalEnglish Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
Volume59
Issue number4
Early online date2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2016

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