Twentieth-century English boys’ annuals often defined masculinity against notions of the “otherness” of gender, race and class. The children’s annual, which developed as a popular literary form during the Victorian period, was designed to instruct and entertain. Dominant ideologies about gender, race and class were reproduced and reinforced for an uncritical readership. High production values meant that annuals became a form of “hard copy,” re-read by several generations. In boys’ annuals, mid-Victorian styles of masculinity were reiterated during the twentieth century. In these narratives, boy heroes demonstrated superiority to various groups of “others,” thereby modelling and inscribing an increasingly old-fashioned masculinity and preserving older ideologies. Exploring a neglected area of ideological history of gender, this article shows how boys’ annuals presented readers with notions of “masculinity” defined by comparison with “the other,” who might be indigenous, feminine or lower-class.
Representations of Ideal Manliness in Twentieth-Century English Boys’ Annuals
Martin Ashley, Jürgen Budde, Andrew Calimach, Heather Ellis, Pauline Farley, Stephen T. Graef, Diederik Janssen, Amanda Keddie, Bertha Mook, Peter Redman and Maria Elena Reyes
For this, the sixth issue of Thymos, which will conclude its third year of publication and with a lively plan of upcoming issues already in place, I asked the members of our editorial board and all past contributors to Thymos to informally respond to this question: “As someone who has written about ‘the boy’ and ‘boyhood’, how do you conceptualize and define these terms as you begin to study and write about issues facing ‘boys’, in the cities, in rural settings, in schools, in various contemporary cultures?” I also suggested that the meaning of “the boy” and “boyhood” may, in fact, be the central issue of boyhood studies at this point. The question elicited eleven remarkably different responses, which follow.