This collected volume investigates what is at stake in boxing in the modern world by exploring different aspects of boxing culture and problematic concepts attached to the sport such as masculinity and violence. This approach implies input from different academic and creative disciplines including aesthetics, cultural studies, creative writing, anthropology, history, literature and sociology. The points of view of participants in boxing as a sport, amateur and professional, will also be incorporated. In this way, themes as different as what it feels like to receive a punch on the nose or the role of fist-fighting in traditional Russian folk customs will be explored.
7 Ideology and Satire in English Bare-Knuckle Boxing Literature
During the revival of bare-knuckle boxing in Georgian England, sporting literature contributed to the consolidation of an ideology of nationalistic masculinity. This ideology was evident across a variety of genres, including treatise, history, journalism, and satire; and it set the stage for the discourse of Christian masculinity of the nineteenth century, when fighting was institutionalized and valued for its pedagogical capital. These structures of thought built upon beliefs held in the 1740s, during which time the rules of boxing were formalized by the ‘father of boxing’ Jack Broughton. In 1743, Broughton opened one of the first boxing amphitheatres, wrote a boxing treatise, established boxing’s first rules, and fought at the Battle of Dettingen with King George II. He was widely memorialized in art and print, including in an emerging genre, the sport mock-heroic. Broughton died in 1789, the year that Daniel Mendoza published The Art of Boxing (Mendoza, 1789) and two years before Mendoza became the Champion of England. Like Broughton, Mendoza was the subject of a boxing mock-heroic. A poetics of boxing emerged during Broughton’s reign, and it crystallized during Mendoza’s reign, boxing’s Georgian-era revival, when the fighter was figured as a classical hero who boxed for England.
Boxing served as a metaphor for national honour, courage, and social health. Writers used several rhetorical strategies typical of the Enlightenment: they invoked the ancients, and they anatomized boxers’ bodies. Boxing manuals, histories, and memoirs, in particular, represented the body as ‘docile’ – that is, ‘analyzable and manipulable’.1...
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