The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood

TitleThe Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsForth, Christopher E.
Number of Pages300
PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press
CityBaltimore
Abstract

In The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood, historian Christopher E. Forth shows how the rhetoric and images used during the Dreyfus Affair reflected French anxieties about masculinity and modernity, and also facilitated ongoing debates about the state of French manhood through the First World War. Forth first considers the broad gender issues that faced the French at the time of the Dreyfus trial. He examines contemporary newspaper accounts as critiques of the masculine credentials of Jewish men and shows how members of the Jewish press answered allegations of their own cowardice and effeminacy. By situating the figure of the "intellectual" within the gender anxieties of the time, he shows how Dreyfus's supporters defensively tried to affirm their masculinity by distancing themselves from "cowardly" Jews, "hysterical" crowds, and threatening women. This book pays special attention to how the Dreyfus Affair engaged with changing ideals of the male body. Taking as a metaphor the portly body of Dreyfus's most prominent defender, novelist Emile Zola, Forth explores how an emerging emphasis on diet and exercise allowed supporters to celebrate Zola's "heroic" weight loss. Finally, he examines the relation of the Dreyfus Affair to the "culture of force" that marked French society during the prewar years, thus accounting for the rise of the youthful athlete as a more compelling manly ideal than the bookish and sedentary intellectual.

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