I'm working on handouts for my upcoming upper level class on Modernist Fiction, and I stumbled across something that rocked my socks. Cause those modernists? Hella crazy....
For everyone who thinks that the modernists were stuffy, ya'll obviously haven't read Joyce's dirty letters. One caveat... do NOT open that link at work... it may actually cause a porn filter to explode, taking you and your computer with it. What I love about Joyce's letters is that they're not only filthy, they're also delightfully juvenile. They're like an episode of Terrance and Phillip, from South Park, only Joyce really is wanking when he writes them.
So I knew that the modernists were definitely not all stuffed shirts, but I had no idea just how audacious they were, till I read about the Dreadnought Hoax.
Basically, a contingent of the set that would soon become the Bloomsbury Group (which included Leonard and Virginia Woolf), tricked Britain's Royal Navy into believing they were visiting Abyssinian Royals. Here's a picture of them dressed in their finery:
Virginia Woolf is the weirdie-beardie on the very far left.
They were given an official tour of the navy flagship, Dreadnought, complete with honor guard, and they even bestowed fake military honors on some of the sailors. They spoke to one another in pidgin-Latin and distributed cards written in Swahili. When they wanted to show their appreciation, they'd shout made up words, including "Bunga! Bunga!"
Five years later, in 1915, the Dreadnought rammed and sank a German sub during WWI. One of the telegrams congratulating the captain and crew contained a card that read, simply, "BUNGA BUNGA."
They weren't caught, despite such shenanigans as Anthony Buxton sneezing off his mustache and having to reattach it before anyone noticed. Indeed, the true nature of the "Abyssinian's" state visit remained secret until the group sent a letter, with picture, to the Mirror. Because of the pacifist nature of the Bloomsbury group, plus the sheer chutzpah of the hoax, the military was incensed. They wanted to have the ringleader, Horace de Vere Cole, arrested, and they even sent two officers to cane Cole. He didn't volunteer for the caning, replying publicly that, if anybody should be caned, it was the people who fell for the hoax.
This hoax not only embarrassed the military, it also brought a lot of attention to the emerging Bloomsbury Group, which would go on to become one of the leading intellectual forces in Britain.
Which gets me to my OTHER point. I mean, like, obviously there's a bit of a dearth in the celebrity world, what with everyone having died last week. So I think it's the perfect time for the League of Reluctant Adults to make it's move! And what better way to kick off our attempts at cultural domination than to start with some great big practical joke on the scale of the Dreadnought hoax??
What do you guys think? And what might we Leaguers do to catapult ourselves into the cultural conversation?