Socialism, Masculinity, and the ‘Faddist’ Sage: Edward Carpenter and George Bernard Shaw

Ruth Livesey

in Socialism, Sex, and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880-1914

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780197263983
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734731 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Socialism, Masculinity, and the ‘Faddist’ Sage: Edward Carpenter and George Bernard Shaw

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Schreiner's good friend Edward Carpenter was her chief source of news about the socialist movement during her self-imposed exiles on the continent throughout the later 1880s. Carpenter sought to reshape masculinity and civilization through sexual desire itself. This chapter examines how the fads of vegetarianism, Jaegerism, and sandal wearing came to be associated with socialism in the last decades of the nineteenth century. It argues that for Carpenter and George Bernard Shaw, these ascetic regimes provided a means of investigating and reforming conventional ideals of masculinity. Both writers represent such fads as bodily labour and discipline, thus overcoming the opposition between the man of letters and the manly labourer. While Carpenter's theory of Lamarckian biological idealism concluded that such practices would result in species change and a socialist utopia of liberated sexual bodies, Shaw's regime aimed to supplement the necessary redistribution of capital.

Keywords: Edward Carpenter; Olive Schreiner; masculinity; sexual desire; George Bernard Shaw; socialism; biological idealism

Chapter.  11822 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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