Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Stalky Model

Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co., I argue, is the Urtext (see OED) of twentieth-century British masculinity. The work encodes a set of fundamental qualities -- which I call the Stalky model -- which, due to its cultural reach and power, subsequent British novelists of troubled masculinity inescapably work both with and against.

These qualities of the Stalky model summarise as follows:
  1. a close-knit group of contrasting male companions.
  2. unspoken (taboo'd) respect for the larger system.
  3. resistance, criticism & forms of rebellion written into the system as an outlet against revolution.
  4. "stalkiness" - individual cunning and pluck - beats brawn and size.
  5. a kind and sapient Head.
  6. Stoic-Christian blend that is fully orthodox to neither.
  7. under the Stoic-Christian ethic, judicious violence is built into the system.
  8. centrality of performance as a defining value: its ultimate form is a rite of passage.
  9. an angular authority-confidante -- typically an ecclesiastic - as a personified conscience.
  10. exclusive and shared esoteric code of speech – i.e. slang -- & cultural artifact – e.g. pop music desiderata in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

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