A Kipling paper

I’ve just uploaded ‘Kipling’s Military Utopia’, another of my old conference papers. This one was for a conference on Utopias a few years ago, and it considers the slightly odd sort-of-Utopia that Kipling created in ‘The Army of a Dream’, a story serialised in the Morning Post in 1904.

Kipling imagines a future Britain in which the Army is the most important institution, and in which all men do Territorial Army service. This army is so efficient and has such excellent morale that no foreign power dare challenge it.

Kipling loved the Army, and was concerned that many of his fellow-countrymen did not. He saw them as being in denial of the fact that their safety depended on the military whom they sometimes despised, sometimes ignored. This story is hardly one of the great Kipling fictions – but what I found interesting about it was the way that it illuminates a later story, one of my favourites.

This is ‘In the Interests of the Brethren’, a 1918 story in which a Masonic lodge dedicates itself to the care of ‘shell-shockers’ and other soldiers in need of comfort. this lodge becomes a kind of mini-Utopia, I suggest, which develops the ideas of ‘The Army of a Dream’.

I’m currently writing another Kipling paper. This is for the conference ‘Kipling in the News: Journalism, Empire and Decolonisation’ at the City University in April. I’m going to be speaking about ‘Kipling and the fun of fake news’ – about ‘The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat’ and ‘Dayspring Mishandled’, two stories in which men with a grievance plot vengeance by devising plans designed to destroy their antagonists’ reputation forever. Both the stories are tantalisingly ambiguous (‘Dayspring Mishandled’ especially is Kipling at his subtle, hinting best) and I’m enjoying exploring some of their mysteries.

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