The Image of the English Gentleman in Twentieth-Century Literature

Englishness and Nostalgia

The Image of the English Gentleman in Twentieth-Century Literature Website price:£58.50 (Regular price: £65.00)
  • Christine Berberich, University of Portsmouth, UK
  • Studies of the English gentleman have tended to focus mainly on the nineteenth century, encouraging the implicit assumption that this influential literary trope has less resonance for twentieth-century literature and culture. Christine Berberich challenges this notion by showing that the English gentleman has proven to be a remarkably adaptable and relevant ideal that continues to influence not only literature but other forms of representation, including the media and advertising industries.

    Focusing on Siegfried Sassoon, Anthony Powell, Evelyn Waugh and Kazuo Ishiguro, whose presentations of the gentlemanly ideal are analysed in their specific cultural, historical, and sociological contexts, Berberich pays particular attention to the role of nostalgia and its relationship to 'Englishness'. Though 'Englishness' and by extension the English gentleman continue to be linked to depictions of England as the green and pleasant land of imagined bygone days, Berberich counterbalances this perception by showing that the figure of the English gentleman is the medium through which these authors and many of their contemporaries critique the shifting mores of contemporary society. Twentieth-century depictions of the gentleman thus have much to tell us about rapidly changing conceptions of national, class, and gender identity.

  • Contents: Part I The Gentleman, Englishness and Nostalgia: Approaches, Explanations, Definitions: The gentleman – an elusive term; From knight to public-school boy – following the gentleman through the ages; A popular literary trope – a brief history of the gentleman in literature. Part II Of Heroes, Survivors and Dinosaurs: The Gentleman in 20th-Century Literature: The survival of the gentleman – Siegfried Sassoon, England and the sporting gentleman; Dancing to the music of Widmerpool – the gentleman in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time; Arcadia revisited? Evelyn Waugh's gentlemen; A pillar upholding nothing: nostalgia, Englishness and the English gentleman in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. Part III The End of the Line?: Regression and reaction: past realities and future possibilities; Bibliography; Index.

  • About the Author: Christine Berberich is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Portsmouth, UK.

  • Reviews: 'Lucid, persuasive, and highly accessible …Christine Berberich's penetrating and sometimes controversial analyses show how deep-rooted the idea of the gentleman still is in English literature and culture'.
    Patrick Parrinder, University of Reading, UK

    ‘Another excellent book on the subject … there is a particularly delightful chapter on Siegfried Sassoon's First World War trilogy … (Berberich) always has interesting and novel things to say on the subject. ’ A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph

    ‘Berberich's critical analysis is based on sound evidence and thorough knowledge of her subject. As a survey of Sassoon and Powell in particular, this book gives a good grounding in the nuances of the social history that are so important to an understanding of any aspect of the English class system in literature.’ The Times Literary Supplement

    ‘In lucid and astute interpretations, Berberich foregrounds literary texts as repository of both stereotypical ideas of Englishness and commonalities inherent in the English character. Equally, the book has the merit of marrying structure and content, rigor and empathy, eloquence and systematicity. Its didactic and methodical character recommends it as a suitable coursework bibliography.’ American, British and Canadian Studies

    ‘… whatever historical resonance may infuse the figure of the gentleman, Berberich makes a memorable and often brilliant case for its continuing vitality … In fact, the single greatest merit of Berberich’s study may lie in her ability to read the seemingly simple figure of the English gentleman in such an astute, imaginative, and many-sided manner, ultimately demonstrating… that the ideal of the gentleman "has not only fashioned men throughout the decades but has itself proven to be – in both meanings of the word – a fashionable ideal".’ Modernism/Modernity

    ‘Ultimately the strength of Berberich’s book is in her treatment of the gentleman as he appears in the half century between the mid-1920s and the mid-1970s. Here she presents a compelling analysis of a lonely, institutionalized character, caught between the manners and morals of the past and the dictates of a new world order, and incapable of rationalising the crass self- centredness of the present with the codes of self- sacrifice and duty that have informed his making.’ Review of English Studies

  • Extracts from this title are available to view:

    Full contents list

    Chapter 1 - The gentleman - an elusive term

    Index