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May SinclairRe-Thinking Bodies and Minds$
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Rebecca Bowler and Claire Drewery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474415750

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.001.0001

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May Sinclair and Physical Culture: Fit Greeks and Flabby Victorians

May Sinclair and Physical Culture: Fit Greeks and Flabby Victorians

Chapter:
(p.139) Chapter 7 May Sinclair and Physical Culture: Fit Greeks and Flabby Victorians
Source:
May Sinclair
Author(s):

Rebecca Bowler

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.003.0008

The Combined Maze, published in 1911, is an allegory about two possible futures for the human race. One possible future is to continue along Victorian lines, with working men and women either ‘weedy, parched, furtively inebriate’ like Ranny’s father, or with the ‘flabbiness’ of his father’s chemist assistant, Mercier.1 The alternative is for young people to throw off their Victorian shackles, to stride forth into the world, to run and jump, and to establish their lives upon the principles of moral and physical fitness. This chapter argues that Sinclair presents physical activity, strength training and joy in movement as the solution to moral, psychological and physical flabbiness. It makes explicit the similarities between Ezra Pound’s vortex and the vortex of Sinclair’s The Combined Maze, and Sinclair’s vision of the active modern woman with the discourses on race, fitness and eugenics (all inflected with classicist ideals) that were circulating in the early twentieth century.

Keywords:   fitness, physical culture, Ancient Greeks, vorticism, eugenics, Social Darwinism

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