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Rudyard Kipling: the making of a reputation

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posted on 2023-06-08, 13:53 authored by Selma Ruth Wells
When Rudyard Kipling died in January 1936, the resulting national and international mourning indicated the popularity and enormous influence of his life and work. It demonstrated the esteem in which he was still held and the consequent longevity of his literary success. This thesis examines how Kipling established, maintained and protected his reputation, his purpose in doing so and considers if concern about his own ethnic purity was a central motivation for him in this regard. This thesis explores Kipling?s preoccupation with the reputation of the enlisted man – or „Tommy Atkins? figure – and his sympathy with the „underdog? and discusses how recuperation of this denigrated image was instrumental in establishing and increasing Kipling?s poetic and literary success. His intimate personal relationship and fascination with the enlisted man is investigated, especially in terms of Empire and the Great War and juxtaposed with discussion of Kipling?s numerous elite, establishment military and political connections. His post-war link to the soldier is considered, including the powerful and enduring effects of the death of his son. Exploration of Kipling?s writing is undertaken using material from the University of Sussex Special Collections Kipling Archive, including Kipling?s personal papers and correspondence which are referred to throughout and the six volume collection of Kipling?s correspondence edited and published by Thomas Pinney. Additional, selective close-reading of his verse and prose illustrates arguments in the personal papers and indicates that Kipling?s literary reputation vindicated both himself and the image of the soldier. Work from poets contemporary with Kipling is used in context, to provide comparison and contrast. In addition to the main thesis, an appendix volume is in place to offer further exploration of the primary archive material.


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