The Ruling Passion

British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire

The Ruling Passion

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: Published: September 1995

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

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.


“This book offers a highly original analysis of the homophobic and homoerotic nexus of British imperial discourse. . . . Essential reading.” — Patrick Brantlinger, Albion

"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

"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


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