Swastika Night: Katharine Burdekin and the Psychology of Scapegoating



In July 1940, the Left Book Club monthly selection was, unusually, a novel. Swastika Night, by a reclusive but respected writer called Murray Constantine, was originally published by Victor Gollancz in 1937, but was reissued in July 1940 as a Left Book Club2 selection, fulfilling the need ‘in these difficult summer months’3 for a psychological analysis of fascism which could reveal potential weaknesses in the Nazi psyche. Nearly fifty years later, Swastika Night was republished by Lawrence and Wishart at the instigation of an American researcher, Daphne Patai, who had discovered that Constantine, whose first novel Proud Man had also been published by Gollancz, was, in fact, Katharine Burdekin writing under a pseudonym. Both Swastika Night and Proud Man are important for their thoroughgoing analysis of the psychological construction of gender identity, more than two decades before Lacanian psychoanalysis and the burgeoning second wave of feminism prepared the way for an understanding of gender ideology and sexual politics. Burdekin’s theorisation of fascism as a logical extension of the ‘debasement’ of women within the male psyche finds echoes today in the writings of such theorists as Klaus Theweleit4 but was, at the time, a thoroughly radical proposal.


Gender Ideology Sexual Politics Weimar Republic Hard Muscle Killing Male 
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© Debra Benita Shaw 2000

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