American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era / Edition 1

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In the first comprehensive history of American manhood, E. Anthony Rotundo sweeps away the groundless assumptions and myths that inform the current fascination with men’s lives. Opposing the views of men’s movement leaders and best-selling authors who maintain that manliness is eternal and unchanging, Rotundo stresses that our concept of manhood is man-made and that, like any human invention, it has a history. American Manhood is a fascinating account of how our understanding of what it means to be a man has changed over time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although the title exaggerates the scope of his study of white, middle-class Northern men in the 19th century, Rotundo here offers a nuanced and intriguing approach to a new topic in gender history. A history teacher at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, he draws on sources including diaries, autobiographies and the work of early social scientists. At the beginning of the 19th century, he demonstrates, the concept of manhood was affected by the shift of emphasis from community to individual; by new expectations of motherhood; and by the emergence of a distinct ``boy culture.'' Current masculine identity, Rotundo contends, has its roots in standards of action and vigor that date to the late 19th century, the same period that saw the classification of men into either ``tough and strong'' or ``tender-minded.'' In an epilogue, Rotundo suggests that contemporary ideals of manhood--from the ``existential hero'' to the ``spiritual warrior''--signify a ``turning away from women'' and proposes instead that men learn to balance their individualism with a renewed sense of connection. (Apr.)
The author has thoughtfully limited the scope of this study by focusing on white, middle-class manhood in the northern US, and concentrating on the 19th century. Grounding his insights in careful research, he discusses the changes over time of boy, youth, and male culture and intimacy; men's attitudes toward women; love, sex, and courtship; work and identity; and the roots of change. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating, accessible, and meticulous piece of scholarship, this study of changing conceptions of manhood breaks new ground in uncovering the internal struggles and shifting paradigms that have informed American men's understanding of themselves. Borrowing the innovative techniques of women's history and gender studies, Rotundo (History/Phillips Academy) shines a powerful light on the diaries, letters, and institutions of white, northern, middle-class men. From a Puritan society that conceived of men largely as ranked members of a community, America, he says, was transformed into a place where a man was an individual who created his own place and status. The qualities that were valued in a man were likewise transformed, from an ideal that called for the suppression of aggressive, competitive urges to an image of manliness that valued nothing more. While boys were once seen as separate from men—at times, more like females; later, as a host of antisocial impulses that need to be suppressed—by the end of the 19th century, men (with Theodore Roosevelt as paradigm) were seen as overgrown boys, their boyish impulses being their best part. Similarly, men's relation to women, while never abjuring the underlying framework of gender spheres, has repeatedly shifted to buttress men's superiority. Sexuality, too, Rotundo says, has changed profoundly, and not always in ways we would think: The 18th century lacked a true concept of homosexuality, allowing adult male friends to spend the night in each others' arms—an act inconceivable to most contemporary heterosexuals. While the slice of society Rotundo examines is narrow, what he reveals goes deep. A pioneering work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465001699
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Anthony Rotundo teaches history and develops programs on race and gender at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Toward a History of American Manhood 1
1 Community to Individual: The Transformation of Manhood at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century 10
2 Boy Culture 31
3 Male Youth Culture 56
4 Youth and Male Intimacy 75
5 The Development of Men's Attitudes toward Women 92
6 Love, Sex, and Courtship 109
7 Marriage 129
8 Work and Identity 167
9 The Male Culture of the Workplace 194
10 Passionate Manhood: A Changing Standard of Masculinity 222
11 Roots of Change: The Women Without and the Woman Within 247
Epilogue: Manhood in the Twentieth Century 284
Appendix: The Parameters of the Study 294
Notes 299
Index 365
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