Manhood in America: A Cultural History

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9780028740676: Manhood in America: A Cultural History

In a time when psychologists are rediscovering Darwin, and much of our social behavioral is being reduced to ancient, hard-wired patterns, Michael Kimmel's history of manhood in America comes as a much needed reminder that our behavior as men and women is anything but stable and fixed. Kimmel's authoritative, entertaining, and wide-ranging history of men in America demonstrates that manhood has meant very different things in different eras. Drawing on advice books, magazines, political pamphlets, and popular novels and films, he makes two surprising claims: First, manhood is homosocial - that is, men need to prove themselves to each other, not to women. Second, definitions of manliness have evolved in response to women's movements. When women act, men react. Originally, manliness was an internal virtue and a democratic ideal - British men were viewed as fops, and American men had to be independent, honest, and responsible. By the 1890s, however, manhood changed to masculinity, something that had to be constantly proven through the new explosion of sports, fraternities, and fashion. Finally, in 1936, Lewis Terman, the creator of the IQ test, developed an "M-F" test to analyze adolescents' masculinity and femininity. Until well into the 1960s, the test penalized boys who preferred to draw flowers instead of forests, or who knew that a teacup was used for drinking tea. But just as Terman's categories and questions seem outdated to us, so will our own standards seem temporary to our successors.

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Review:

I think this book is of continuing importance and relevance. Pioneering when it first appeared, it has inspired many to look further into many of the topics it explores and continues to be essential reading for anyone seeking a grounding in the field. I am always amazed to see new studies emerge that are, in many respects, further elaborations of astute observations Kimmel made years agoEL I cannot imagine a course on American masculinities that did not assign Manhood in America as required reading. It's that essential. -Christopher Forth, University of KansasI am quite loyal to this book-it is accessible to undergraduate students but is not simplified at the expense of key concepts and historical change. I have not been able to find a book that does what Manhood in America does in such a clear and compelling fashion. -Dennis Deslippe, Franklin and Marshall CollegeIt's comprehensive without being pedantic. One of the thing that makes it so appealing is the way culture, politics, history, the arts, etc., are brought into the discussion. [I mean, the subtitle is "A cultural history," but the integration feels natural, and the argument does build up, layer by layer, in each of these cultural domains. The size of it makes it a whole lot less intimidating to undergrads than the (hardback) 1st editionEL. I feel like a Mormon missionary: having spent a couple years out convincing folks that theirs is the true religion, they're supposed to be stronger in their faith than before their mission. After writing about this book, I'm excited at the possibility of putting it to use in the classroom. --Mark Riddle, University of Northern ColoradoThe writing style is superb. It is 'wonderfully readable, ' meaning that it is crisp, clear, written in an interesting and engaging way, and often quite wittyELA highly readable and illuminating cultural history and meditation on the notion of self-made manhood and its impact on the construction of American masculinity over the past 200 years. -Nelson Rodriguez, the College of New JerseyA new edition would obviously need to be updated with recent historical events, specifically the 2008 electionELAlso, I think an updated version would need to take seriously how global politics, recent immigration issues, and the current recession are shaping manhood in AmericaELThe text serves as a perfect teaching tool for relaying how masculinities are socially and historically constructed. I use this text at the beginning of each semester of my Masculinities seminar and constantly refer back to it. -Dana Berkowitz, Louisiana State UniversityThe approach is a thorough and complex cultural exploration of white, heterosexual, Christian, middle class masculinity. The book is fabulous, brilliant and much needed. I just think we need more about the 'othered' masculinities or more of an acknowledgement of the privilege and specificity associated with 'American masculinity. -Ami Lynch, George Washington University"Manhood in America is a much needed exploration into that vast and neglected territory: the history of the American man. Michael Kimmel's meticulous research delves into everything from military psychiatric reports to Victorian boys' advice manuals, and surfaces with a thought-provoking and original account of American manhood's troubled stumbling path into modern times."--Susan Faludi, author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women "Pioneering when it first appeared, this book has inspired many to look further into the topics it explores and continues to be essential reading for anyone seeking a grounding in the field. I am always amazed to see new studies emerge that are, in many respects, further elaborations of astute observations Kimmel made years ago.EL I cannot imagine a course on American masculinities that did not assign Manhood in America as required reading. It's that essential."--Christopher Forth, University of Kansas

About the Author:

Michael Kimmel is Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. A leading researcher and writer on gender and men and masculinity, he is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Gendered Society, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2010), The Gendered Society Reader, Fourth Edition (with Amy Aronson, OUP, 2010), and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (2009).

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