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The Man Who Would Be King: Rudyard Kipling, Freemasonry and the Perils of New Historicism

Rudyard Kipling was revered as a literary giant in his lifetime. His talents were even compared to those of Shakespeare by renowned philosophers such as William James. But for a few decades now, the author’s Marxist critics, especially those loyal to the poetics of new historicism, have treated the writer and his exotic stories with utter contempt and disdain. Their observations and commentary are predictably focused on the role and influence of colonialism and imperialism present in his narratives, highlighting those factors as not just an essential context for understanding the breadth of his plotlines, their characters, and intent in creating them but as the only lens through which one can reasonably interpret them. This absolutism does a disservice not only to the writer but to future generations of readers fully capable of enjoying Kipling without an Orwellian literati looking over their shoulder, reminding them of his thought crimes.