Masculinity In Literature Essay


This list looks at how manhood is and has been constructed within the matrices of race, class, and sexual orientation and is specifically grounded in the historical contingencies affecting these constructions. This list looks to explore, among other topics, the nuances of racializing manhood, the panic occurring in the meeting of queer and heterosexual men, the historical underpinnings of an understanding of manhood, and more generally, alternative constructions of masculinity and these new men's ontology and modality. Perhaps most importantly, this list attempts to forge a genealogy of the critical interpretations addressing manhood, defining the texture and shape of this particular area of gender theory.


Bederman, Gail. "Theodore Roosevelt: Manhood, Nation, and 'Civilization.'" Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 18801917. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. 170-215.
Bordo, Susan. The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giro 2000.
Boyarin, Daniel. "What Does a Jew Want? or, The Political Meaning of the Phallus." The Psychoanalysis of Race. Ed. Christopher Lane. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 211-240.
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Carby, Hazel. "The Souls of Black Men." Race Men. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. 9-44.
Carrigan, Tim, Bob Connell, and John Lee. "Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity." The Making of Masculinities: The New Men's Studies, ed. Harry Brod. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987. 63-100.
Cheung, King-Kok. "The Woman Warrior versus the Chinaman Pacific: Must a Chinese
American Critic Choose between Feminism and Heroism?" Conflicts in Feminism, ed. Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller. New York and London: Routledge, 1990.
Dyer, Richard. "The White Man's Muscles." White. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. 144-183.
Edelman, Lee. "Tearooms and Sympathy, or, The Epistemology of the Water Closet," Homeographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Fanon, Franz. Black Skin/White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 'That Sexe Which Prevaileth.'" Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 30-44.
Freud, Sigmund. "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" and "Some Psychic Consequences of the Anatomical Differences Between the Sexes" in The Freud Reader, ed. by Peter Gay. New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.
Garber, Marjorie. "Spare Parts" in Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
Haraway, Donna J. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-183.
Harris, Daniel. "Effeminacy," Michigan Quarterly Review, 30:1 (Winter 1991). 72-81.
Kimmel, Michael. Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York: The Free Press, 1996.
Leverenz, David. Manhood and the American Renaissance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Lott, Eric. "All the King's Men: Elvis Impersonators and White Working-Class Masculinity," in Race and the Subject of Masculinities, ed. by Harry Stecopoulus and Michael Uebel. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. 192-227.
Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Mercer, Kobena. "Black Masculinity and the Sexual Politics of Race" and "Reading Racial Fetishism: The Photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe" in Welcome to the Jungle. New York and London: Routledge, 1994.
Nelson, Dana. National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
Pateman, Carole. "The Fraternal Social Contract." The Disorder of Women: Democracy, Feminism and Political Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989. 33-57.
Rotundo, Anthony. American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era. New York: Basic Books, 1994.
Savran, David. Taking It Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Introduction," "Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles," and "Toward the Twentieth Century: English Readers of Whitman" in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Epistemology of the Closet" and "The Beast in the Closet" in
The Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993. Silverman, Kaja. Male Subjectivity at the Margins. New York: Routledge, 1992. Wiegman, Robyn. American Anatomies: Theorizing Race and Gender. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.

Students seeking a foothold in the general terminology and critical moves common to masculinity studies can begin here. Adams and Savran 2002 is an anthology of primary texts and influential secondary criticism in which the Victorian age is represented by Henry James and Sigmund Freud, and Flood, et al. 2007 is a quick-reference encyclopedia. Some figures in this article—Connell, Halberstam, Sedgwick—are represented in this collection as well. Connell 2012 lays out the trajectory of masculinity studies from a scholarly and theoretical framework, as well as offering a wide view of the history of masculinities in the West. This section also includes collections of essays—Brod 1987, Emig and Rowland 2010, and Smart and Yeates 2008—from which readers can select from a menu of options, from romantic to contemporary. Mansfield 2006 may be the most controversial choice here. At once social history, theory, and polemic, Mansfield’s relatively conservative argument for the recuperation of the manly man is informed by research but geared toward a popular audience. Mansfield’s work, and the call for more work on “issues of age—both youth and senescence” (p. 383) in Hobbs 2013, are indicative of how each of these overviews also offers an assessment of the state of the field, often in response or even in opposition to earlier pieces. Thus, is it both helpful and appropriate that this category also includes a website—Gender Matters—that is ripe for updating on a regular basis.

  • Adams, Rachel, and David Savran, eds. The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002.

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    Essay collection is transnational, vast in the time periods covered (from classical to postmodern), and interdisciplinary. Victorianists should read Eve Sedgwick’s essay on Henry James as well as the Freud excerpt, “Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes,” that begins the collection.

  • Brod, Harry, ed. The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987.

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    The fourteen essays in this edited collection respond to late-20th-century feminist criticism. The essays attempt to define what makes masculinity studies a separate endeavor from feminist critiques of men.

  • Connell, Raewyn. Masculinities. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012.

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    As with Brod 1987, Connell lays out the formal practices of masculinity studies. The book, especially in its expanded second edition, offers everything from the politics of the body to the history of Western masculinities to engagement with 20th-century theories of masculinity in the context of psychoanalysis. Originally published in 1995.

  • Emig, Rainer, and Antony Rowland, eds. Performing Masculinity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    This essay collection spans from the romantic to the postmodern age. Scholars of romanticism should note Diego Saglia’s essay about Byron’s transgressive body. Victorianists can reference Jessica Malay’s essay about Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë, Rainer Emig’s essay on Victorian comedy, and Anthony Bateman’s essay about imperial masculinity.

  • Flood, Michael, Judith Kegan Gardiner, Bob Pease, and Keith Pringle, eds. International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    This resource consists of short essays, arranged in alphabetical order. Offers reading suggestions and conceptual maps across a number of concepts, from a transnational perspective. Literary entries include overviews of the adventure novel, the bildungsroman, poetry, and war literature.

  • Gender Matters. The Victorian Web. 26 July 2015.

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    This web resource is divided into sections on theory, politics and history, religion, the arts, and science. Much of the material relates to the “Woman Question,” but note George P. Landow’s “Issues of Victorian Masculinity” and Jacqueline Banerjee’s “The Struggle for Manhood in Victorian Fiction.”

  • Hobbs, Alex. “Masculinity Studies and Literature.” Literature Compass 10.4 (April 2013): 383–395.

    DOI: 10.1111/lic3.12057E-mail Citation »

    Review essay that assesses literary masculinity studies and that begins with Brod 1987 as one of the first prominent edited collections. Its primary focus is Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity, “the most useful, albeit sometimes controversial, thesis of men’s studies” (p. 385). Requests more studies of youth and old age.

  • Mansfield, Harvey C. Manliness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

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    Unapologetically polemical presentation of male identity as constructed and contested; ranges from the classical tradition to the present. Book arranged ahistorically by topic, so use the index to find specific authors. Victorian authors discussed include Charles Darwin, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, and John Stuart Mill.

  • Reeser, Todd W. Masculinities in Theory: An Introduction. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444317312E-mail Citation »

    An accessible overview of masculinity studies: how it developed as a field, how it intersects with queer theory and feminist theory, how the male body appears in different official discourses such as law and medicine, and how masculinity intersects with categories of nation and race.

  • Smart, Graeme, and Amelia Yeates, eds. Special Issue: Victorian Masculinities. Critical Survey 20.3 (2008).

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    Expanded and revised conference proceedings (Keele University, 2006). Essay topics include comparative and colonial masculinities, theatricality, illness, gendered language, and aesthetics. The goal of the collection, according to editors Smart and Yeates, is to emphasize “the fluidity and instability of masculine identities by revealing their constructions as social processes” (p. 4).


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