Manhood at Harvard: William James and Othersby Kim Townsend
On the battlefields of the Civil War a new masculine ideal was forged. Its defining termsthe glorification of male elites, activities, and games, and the marginalization of women and otherswere most clearly set forth at Harvard University. Kim Townsend introduces us to the college men who were the most influential supporters and vocal critics of the new
On the battlefields of the Civil War a new masculine ideal was forged. Its defining termsthe glorification of male elites, activities, and games, and the marginalization of women and otherswere most clearly set forth at Harvard University. Kim Townsend introduces us to the college men who were the most influential supporters and vocal critics of the new ideal of manhood: William James, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles William Eliot, W. E. B. Du Bois, George Santayana, and others. Manhood at Harvard penetrates a distinctive culture, the legacy of which has reverberated powerfully in education, politics, and society throughout the twentieth century.
In an alumni essay published in 1902, Harvard history professor Albert Bushnell Hart looked back to find that "teaching men manhood" was "not a matter of record on the College books" but concluded that in subtle ways it nonetheless had been done. Townsend thoroughly searches the written record to determine how much the elusive ethos of "manhood" influenced Harvard president Charles William Eliot (18691909), William James, and their colleagues, as they brought the institution to the forefront of American higher education and arguably created the modern American university. Harvard's professorial Golden Age during Eliot's tenure included Josiah Royce, C.S. Peirce, Louis Agassiz, Henry Adams, and Charles Eliot Norton, all of whom Townsend objectively reviews for their characters and attitudes toward manhood. He singles out William James for special study because he was flexible enough to both uphold and criticize the assumptions of manhood. Broadly, Townsend argues that masculinity's postbellum ideal took on specific attributes of self-mastery and vigor (physical and intellectual). Townsend concentrates on how Harvard specifically tried to inculcate this new "manhood," as Eliot changed the curriculum to an elective system, promoted physical fitness and (more grudgingly) intercollegiate sports, and moved higher education away from rote learning and closer to commerce and industry. A well-defined concept of manhood, he concludes, never achieved an ideal articulation at Harvard, as can be seen in the life of Teddy Rooseveltwho did more to vulgarize the ideal than embody it.
Though the vanished tradition still is palpable in contemporary gender issues, Townsend weakens his punctilious thesis by restricting it to the Harvard corner of the groves of academe.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.70(d)
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Meet the Author
Kim Townsend is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Amherst College. He is the author of Sherwood Anderson: A Biography.
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