This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Fighting Culture: Class and the Early English Boxing Novel in Late Victorian Society




Holzmeister, James R.

Type of Degree





The early English boxing novel emerges at a critical point in the wider culture of transition that typifies the later Victorian age in England. Evidencing the emergence of an increasingly populist literature and popular professional sport, the English boxing novel illustrates the increasing influence of the working class on the culture of England. As a reflection of a much wider trend, the English boxing novel serves to exemplify and articulate the latent sociocultural discourses embodied within these larger processes of material history. Building upon the work of contemporary sporting theorists who accentuate the role of narrative in the definition of sporting culture and character, this dissertation asserts that early English boxing narratives, here represented by three iterations of the genre, serve to illustrate not merely the popular sentiments of sporting culture but also the significant role of both sport and literature in the definition of English popular culture at the end of the nineteenth century. Placed within the context of the heavily classed nature of English sport, the ideological preoccupations of the boxing narrative will be forwarded as an iteration of working class identity and desire, an oppositional culture to dominant, upper class English sentiments. Drawing upon dominant discourses of class and English society from prominent Victorian literary presentations of the working class, the dissertation will situate the boxing novel’s presentation of working class sentiment within a larger context of dominant Victorian perspectives. With the benefit of this context it becomes possible to view the Englishboxing narrative, along with the wider culture of professional sport it embodies, as an effort to creatively reshape latent features of English culture to better meet the needs and desires of the working class. Ultimately, the cultural amalgam that emerges through this process is perhaps best likened to the kind of hybrid cultures that have come to typify postcolonial societies throughout the globe.