Tennyson and the enlistment into military masculinity

While Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ is often discussed in terms of masculinity and empire, the military and social context of the speaker’s subject position as an enlisted soldier remains unexplored. This chapter suggests that when read in light of the British soldier’s precarious socioeconomic position in the early Victorian period, the poem’s formal qualities subvert its militaristic and imperialist narrative. The poem reveals how the early Victorian military’s making of the man ‘conscribes’ the individual into the whole but at the same time obfuscates the complexities of actualising this masculine subjectivity. This reading shows how the poetic form provided Tennyson the means to deploy masculinity in support of the military’s participation in the grand narrative of progress while critiquing the resulting effects.

in Martial masculinities