The Lingering Clasp of the Hand HTML version

A book on the collaborative activity of writers in the late Victorian period that focuses on
the homosocial nature of their collaborations has to take into account issues about what
forms the nature of masculinities now, about the representation and social construction of
manliness in the broadest sense, and about the need for the critic to imagine and shape
new definitions of homoerotic expression, to produce an identity for masculinity despite
the historical trappings of patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia. The male collaborative
partnerships that these writers formed in the 1880s and 90s were actually breaking new
ground in their definition of masculinities against the backcloth of a harsh, classical
paternalism and patriarchy.
There was little attempt in the late-Victorian period to consider the views of men who
wished to display a more tender and passionate attitude to their fellow artists, and indeed
the "tendencies"1 were discouraged and, because of the stereotyped roles men were
expected to perform, they were not generally permitted to express themselves openly.
There are, however, a few examples in the texts where men were able to throw their arms
around each other and express their joy, fears or sorrow, as when Holly and Leo lay
“panting together side by side.2
Masculinity in the period in which I am writing — the twenty first century, — is no
longer regarded as normal, natural, universal and as "given" and I argue masculinity as an
effect, and, indeed, a contradictory one. The effect of masculinity derives from economic
happenstance and organisational structures, and it emphasises bodily feelings that define
the female as 'other'.3 As I am writing at a time when the role of masculinities has
changed, I have had to be careful not to impose a contemporary reading of many of the