Manhood in America: A Cultural History
Free Press, 1996 - 544 pages
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 But just as Terman's categories and questions seem outdated to us, so will our own standards seem temporary to our successors.
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I never knew who my father was" is the last line of the novel. (Playwright Peter
Schaffer noted also that "all cowboys are orphans.") American novels often
include a search for father — for legitimacy, perhaps, but also for the warmth and
This is, of course, not true of the novels by women, which were the best- selling
works of fiction of the era. ... entirely different from the classical European novel,
in which — as in, e.g., Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, or Jane Eyre — the plot ...
In a sense, the male genre of adventure narrative has devolved into a romance
novel; to civilize Tarzan, the novel becomes a sentimental "woman's" romance.
108. Cited in Jane Tompkins, West of Everything, p. 167, 33. Toward the end of
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MANHOOD IN AMERICA: A Cultural HistoryUser Review - Kirkus
Kimmel (Sociology/SUNY, Stony Brook) applies the methodology of feminist history to the experience of being male in America. Rejecting the idea that almost every history book is about the male ... Read full review
Manhood in America: a cultural historyUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Kimmel, a noted men's studies authority, coeditor of Against the Tide (LJ 2/1/92), and editor of The Politics of Manhood, reviewed below, presents in his own words the first cultural history of men in ... Read full review
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