Type of Document Thesis Author Player, Bailey Thomas Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-07102006-171913 Title "The True Male Animals": Changing Representations of Masculinity in Lonesome Dove, Bonfire of the Vanities, Fight Club, and A Man in Full Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Barry Faulk Committee Member Leigh Edwards Committee Member Mark Cooper Committee Member Keywords
- Susan Bordo
- Susan Faludi
- Popular Culture
- Gender Theory
- Michael Kimmel
- Lynn Segal
Date of Defense 2006-06-28 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis study is an attempt to trace changing perceptions of masculinity as expressed by popular literature in the late twentieth century. In this thesis I argue that masculinity is a process and, as such, can be understood differently at different times. Employing Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove (1985), Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996), and Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) and A Man in Full (1998), I examine the ways in which these popular novels might be understood as expressing and mediating concerns surrounding masculinity at the time of their publication. By investigating these literary works, we might be able to more fully appreciate the fears and desires linked with a fluctuating hegemonic masculinity in America.
Specifically within each text, I look at how the main male characters maintain and/or are denied separation from an encroaching and feminizing civilization and how these struggles for secession correspond to modern anxieties influencing hegemonic masculinity. Moreover, by studying literary works popularized under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, we can observe how traditional perceptions of masculinity as stoic, tough, and hard-boiled (a la Reagan) have been largely destabilized and softer, more docile forms of masculinity (a la Clinton) have become increasingly accepted and even normalized. As a result of enhanced and prevalent modes of technology, jobs that require muscular strength have decreased significantly in the last century, and so it has become increasingly unnecessary for men to define themselves in terms of their strength or toughness. Each of the novels considered in this thesis wrestle with these concerns.
Finally, I extrapolate from these twentieth century works into the twenty-first century in an attempt to gauge what anxieties have been resolved and what remains to be reconciled. Overall, this thesis is an attempt to enter into a critical conversation with gender theorists such as Michael Kimmel who have suggested there is at least as much to discover about the constructedness of masculinity as femininity.
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