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

TitleAmerican Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsE. Rotundo, Anthony
Number of Pages394
PublisherBasic Books
CityNew York

The first history of American manhood this book sweeps away the groundless assumptions and myths that inform the current fascination with men's lives. Who is a "real man"? What is "naturally" male? How does a "manly" man act? Opposing the views of men's movement leaders and bestselling authors, who maintain that manliness is eternal and unchanging, E. Anthony Rotundo stresses that our concept of manhood is man-made; and like any human invention, it has a history. Rotundo traces the drastic shifts in the meaning of masculinity that have occurred over the past two centuries, and presents a radically different portrait of manhood in earlier times. Two hundred years ago, for example, men were considered more sexually restrained than women. The word "competitive" did not exist then, and the word "effeminate," until a century ago, referred to a fondness for luxury. Also in the nineteenth century, men often wrote each other love letters - even such famous Americans as Alexander Hamilton and Daniel Webster. American Manhood argues that a revolution in our understanding of masculinity has occurred twice over the last two hundred years. In colonial America, "communal manhood"--Emphasizing social bonds and a man's place at the head of the household - dominated men's lives. But at the dawn of the nineteenth century a new "self-made manhood" emerged, stressing competition and fusing man's identity to the workplace. A second revolution occurred in the twentieth century as "passionate manhood," based on aggression, combativeness, and sexual desire, became the ideal. Speaking directly to the contemporary dilemmas of American masculinity, Rotundo brilliantly analyzes the moral and psychological paradoxes of becoming a man, discussing the bonds between mothers and sons as well as fathers and sons; the origins of an idealized athleticism; the worship of heroic entrepreneurs; patterns of love, marriage, and sexuality; and the roots of disdain for male homosexuality. The book also reveals how changing concepts of manhood helped to define the character of many important modern American institutions, from higher education to sports to politics. Here is a fascinating account of how our understanding of what it means to be a man has changed over time.

Short TitleAmerican Manhood
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