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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2008

E 379K • American Literature and Thought: 1840 to 1920

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35345 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
MEZ 2.124

Course Description

This course explores how masculinity and its historical variants (manhood, manliness) have been defined in American literature and culture. The guiding premise of the course is that masculinity is a social construct that his been viewed both as both a given fact about a person's body and as an ideal that must be proved, earned or maintained through various actions, displays, or tests. We will read a variety of texts in which a character is "made" a man, asking how these texts promote, challenge, or revise normative ideas about what "makes" a man at work, in nature, in physical combat, and at home. Some of these normative ideals include economic individualism and the idea of "the self made man," masculinity as civilization, masculinity as savagery, and masculinity as homophobia. Looking more broadly at our culture, we will ask how these definitions of masculinity effect those who attempt man-making performances, those who refuse to attempt them, and those whom these performances exclude or define as non-masculine.

Grading Policy

Course requirements will include four short (750-1000 word) essays (60%), a longer (2000 word) final paper (20%), and class participation (20%).


Readings may include: Jack London, The Call of the Wild; Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan, Lord of the Apes; William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham, William Weldon Johnson, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Rebecca Harding Davis, Waiting for the Verdict, Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Nathaniel West, A Cool Million, Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick.

Secondary readings in cultural theory, history and sociology might include essays by Megan Abbot, Gail Bederman, Judith Butler, Raewyn Connell, Robert Corber, Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, Peter Lehman, and Anthony Rotundo.


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