Although their settings span a wide geographical area, from the South Pacific to India, Maugham's exotic short stories, novels, and travelogues all, ultimately, focus on the creation of a masculine British identity. In this first book to address Maugham's fiction in light of recent developments in postcolonial, gender, and cultural theory, Holden argues that Maugham's work can be understood as an attempt to negotiate between two alternative masculine identities: those of private homosexual and public writer. Holden identifies Maugham's attempts to cultivate a public persona as a writer whose heterosexuality is confirmed through a process of control of language. Furthermore, Holden illuminates the fluidity of language that Maugham, in contrast to his public persona, associated with homosexuality. The basis of this study is the provocative notion that Maugham's texts, despite their exotic locations, ultimately dramatize a struggle over masculine British identity.
"The work makes a genuine contribution to our understanding of the works of Somerset Maugham and to gender studies in general."-Dennis Porter, University of Massachusetts, Amherst