“Heroic Hearts”: Masculinity and Imperialism in “Ulysses” and “The White Man’s Burden”

  • Autumn Rose Doucette Student
Keywords: Keywords: Victorian poetry; Tennyson; Kipling; imperialism; masculinity



 This essay aims to uncover how Victorian poetry aided in the construction of a hegemonic masculinity that is ruthless, adversarial, and deemed integral to the success of British imperial work. In promoting this new paradigm, Victorian writers aimed to appeal to men’s egos and spirits, albeit in differing ways: Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (1842) professes that embodying a masculine—and therefore colonial—role serves to support personal fulfilment, while Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” (1899) claims that the purpose of adopting such a role lies in the prosperity it brings humanity as a whole. Together, Tennyson and Kipling exemplify not only the fluidity and volatility of Victorian gender roles but showcase the ways in which masculinity became bound to tenets of violence, individuality, and to British colonialism. 


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