Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others

Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others

by Kim Townsend
     
 

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On the battlefields of the Civil War a new masculine ideal was forged. Its defining terms—the glorification of male elites, activities, and games, and the marginalization of women and others—were 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

Overview

On the battlefields of the Civil War a new masculine ideal was forged. Its defining terms—the glorification of male elites, activities, and games, and the marginalization of women and others—were 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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Towsend (Sherwood Anderson, LJ 9/15/87) builds his well-written and thoroughly researched work around a clever idea: the exploration of the development of manliness among the faculty and students at Harvard from the post-Civil War era to the early 20th century. He offers an intriguing approach to Harvard's history and the men who made it an educational cornerstone of the nation. Focusing first on William James, epitome of the Harvard professor and distinguished American educator, he considers such notable models as president Charles William Eliot as well as W.E.B. DuBois, George Santayana, and Theodore Roosevelt. William Reid Jr. (class of 1901), father of football at Harvard, is seen as one of the primary players in the growth of "manly sports." Just as the book opens following the Civil War, it ends with the decline in the emphasis on manhood in 1909-10, when the psychological theories of Freud gained acceptance and "being a man was not enough." This scholarly book is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala.
Kirkus Reviews
Townsend (English/Amherst Coll.; Sherwood Anderson, 1987) scrutinizes the thought of Charles Eliot and William James to locate the 19th-century ideals of manhood peculiar to the Harvard Man, and to trace their influence on America after the Civil War.

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 Roosevelt—who 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393331318
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/1996
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Charles Paine
A brilliant and remarkably interdisciplinary cultural history about the 'rhetoric of masculinity' at Harvard University during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. -- Charles Paine, American Literature

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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