Body by Weimar: Athletes, Gender, and German Modernity

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In Body by Weimar, Erik N. Jensen shows how German athletes reshaped gender roles in the turbulent decade after World War I and established the basis for a modern body and modern sensibility that remain with us to this day. The same cutting-edge techniques that engineers were using to increase the efficiency of factories and businesses in the 1920s aided athletes in boosting the productivity of their own flesh and bones. Sportswomen and men embodied modernity-quite literally-in its most streamlined, competitive, time-oriented form, and their own successes on the playing fields seemed to prove the value of economic rationalization to a skeptical public that often felt threatened by the process. Enthroned by the media as culture's trendsetters, champions in sports such as tennis, boxing, and track and field also provided models of sexual empowerment, social mobility, and self-determination. They showed their fans how to be modern, and, in the process, sparked heated debates over the aesthetics of the body, the limits of physical exertion, the obligations of citizens to the state, and the relationship between the sexes. If the images and debates in this book strike readers as familiar, it might well be because the ideal body of today-sleek, efficient, and equally available to men and women-received one of its earliest articulations in the fertile tumult of Germany's roaring twenties. After more than eighty years, we still want the Weimar body.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An important addition to the history of Germany and the history of human actors." —American Historical Review

"Erik Jensen has written an excellent book that shows the importance of the body for our understanding of Weimar Germany. Lean, fast, and fit-and competitive-the ideal sportsmen and sportswomen of the 1920s were emblematic of modernity. Each chapter, on tennis, boxing, and track, is replete with insights and splendid illustrations." —Eric D. Weitz, author of Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy

"Jensen's study is a cultural history of the discourses of gender, modernity, and modern sports that concentrates on the everyday experience of the mass of Germans who read about athletes in the popular press or in popular fiction, who went to movies that featured them, and who emulated them in their daily routines and fashions. For professional historians, it fills a significant gap. For a more popular audience, it tells a fascinating part of the story of how the world we live in, in which women as well as men routinely compete in sports, and in which Germany routinely dominates Olympic competitions, came into being. It is an entertaining as well as an informative history, in which we can see our own sense of what it means to be modern emerging in the interaction of a rapidly expanding mass media culture and a specifically modern form of athleticism." —Michael Mackenzie, DePauw University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195395648
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/7/2010
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik N. Jensen is Associate Professor of History at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Building a Better German
1. Disorder on the Court: Soft Men, Hard Women, and Steamy Tennis
2. Belle of the Brawl: The Boxer between Sensationalism and Sport
3. German Engineering: Duty, Performance, and the Track and Field Athlete
Conclusion: Body beyond Weimar: Germany's Athletic Legacy

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