Arthur Conan Doyle and British Cosmopolitan Identity: Knights, Detectives, and Mediums
Type of Degreedissertation
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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle embodies dual identities in most critical discussions of his works: 1) as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, a character whose influence far outspans his creator, and 2) as a staunch imperialist who tends to demonize the Other in favor of his white male heroes. While these critical approaches are valid, given Sherlock Holmes’s popularity and the imperial nature of many of Conan Doyle’s writings, a great deal of his work has been marginalized in critical discussions. Not only did Conan Doyle have an extensive literary output that included historical romances and writings about war and spiritualism, but his approach to Britain’s place in global politics also is more complex than is commonly represented. Through the period of increased globalization in the fin de siècle and early twentieth century, Conan Doyle works to redefine and transform British masculine identity into more sustainable and recuperative modes, using cosmopolitanism as a way to navigate the tensions between national identity and international relations. While using colonial villains as an example of destructive forms of British masculine identity, he presents the chivalrous heroism of Sherlock Holmes, medieval knights, soldiers serving in the Second Boer War, and athletes in the Modern Olympics as examples of cosmopolitan British identities. Through his fictional and non-fictional works, Conan Doyle tries to navigate a cosmopolitan approach to relations with other nations, reflecting an evolving pattern of global outreach that culminates in his writing on spiritualism, wherein he forms a diverse cosmopolitan commonwealth of the afterlife.