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Tom Brown’s schooldays: ‘sportsex’ in Victorian Britain

Harvey, Andy (2012) Tom Brown’s schooldays: ‘sportsex’ in Victorian Britain. Critical Survey 24 (1), pp. 17-29. ISSN 0011-1570.

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Thomas Hughes’ idealised vision of life at Rugby public school is one of the best-known novels in the English language. It was regarded from the outset as a founding text of ‘muscular Christianity’. Contrary to the intentions of its author, it helped to inaugurate the cult of ‘manly’ athleticism that swept through the English public schools in the second half of the nineteenth-century. I argue that the novel reveals tensions around gender and sexuality that were in play among public schoolboys during the second half of the nineteenth-century. These tensions exploded into full public view in the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 and were instrumental in helping to establish a structure of homophobia within homosocial settings that has lasted through to the present day.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in Critical Survey. The definitive publisher-authenticated version: Harvey, A. (2012), Tom Brown’s schooldays: ‘sportsex’ in Victorian Britain, Critical Survey 24(1) is available online at:
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Psychosocial Studies
Depositing User: Andrew Harvey
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2012 10:29
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2013 09:19

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