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Pinks, Pansies, and Punks

The Rhetoric of Masculinity in American Literary Culture

James Penner

Publication Year: 2011

Pinks, Pansies, and Punks charts the construction of masculinity within American literary culture from the 1930s to the 1970s. Penner documents the emergence of "macho criticism," and explores how debates about "hard" and "soft" masculinity influenced the class struggles of the 1930s, anti-communism in the 1940s and 1950s, and the clash between the Old Left and the New Left in the 1960s. By extending literary culture to include not just novels, plays, and poetry, but diaries, journals, manifestos, screenplays, and essays on psychology and sociology, Penner unveils the multiplicity of gender attitudes that emerge in each of the decades he addresses.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Cover [Includes copyright and title pages]

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pp. xi-xv

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Introduction: A Short History of Macho Criticism

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pp. 1-24

In 1928, Michael Gold, an aspiring Marxist critic, wrote a review of Ernest Hemingway’s Men Without Women (1927) for the New Masses. Gold had not yet published Jews Without Money (1930), the working-class memoir that would make him an important literary figure during the Depression. ...

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1. “Healthy Nerves and Sturdy Physiques”: Remaking the Male Body of Literary Culture in the 1930s

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pp. 25-66

Nearly a year after the stock market crash of 1929, Michael Gold, a young radical Communist and author of the much-acclaimed Jews Without Money (1930), attacked Thornton Wilder in the book review column of the New Republic. In a particularly damning passage, Gold labels Wilder “the Emily Post of culture” who writes novels that are...

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2. Doughfaces, Eggheads, and Softies: Gendered Epithets and American Literary Culture in the 1940s

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pp. 67-97

At a certain point in the 1940s, the concept of hardness became a recurring metaphor in American cultural life. In the area of foreign policy, it became a vivid and arresting way of discussing national identity. Therefore, it is perhaps fitting that the theme of penetration, a perennial concern of hard masculinity, became one of the...

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3. Highbrows and Lowbrows: Squares, Beats,Hipsters, White Negroes, New Critics, and American Literary Culture in the 1950s [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 98-158

In 1945, Alfred Kinsey, the not-yet-famous sexologist, visited the respectable and staid Lincoln Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Kinsey was busy gathering sexual histories for his report Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which would be published with great fanfare in 1948. ...

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4. Reforming the Hard Body: The Old Left, the Counterculture, and the Masculine Kulturkampf of the 1960s

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pp. 159-211

During the 1960s, cultural critics often viewed social and cultural changes as products of a generational conflict. Lewis Feuer’s The Conflict of Generations (1969), for example, posited that the student protests of that time were essentially a collective Oedipal rebellion against the values of the older generation. ...

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5. The Gender Upheavals of the Late 1960s and Early 1970s: The Black Panthers, Gay Liberation, and Radical Feminism

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pp. 212-242

The last performance of Paradise Now was at the Sportspalast in Berlin on January 10, 1970. After sixteen months of touring, the event was somewhat anticlimactic because the thirty-member theatre troupe was experiencing internal dissension. In the aftermath of the tour, a press release announced that the radical company had, “for the sake of mobility, . . . [split] into four cells” (Biner 225). ...

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Epilogue: The End of Innuendo

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pp. 243-248

I began this project with the goal of writing a history of macho criticism and the politics of masculinity in American literary culture. This book began with Michael Gold’s promulgation of the gender myths that operated in the literature of the 1920s and 1930s. In many respects, Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics signified the end of Gold’s project and the inauguration of a new trajectory of literary criticism. ...


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pp. 249-267


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pp. 269-281

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 283-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004956
E-ISBN-10: 0253004950
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355478

Page Count: 318
Illustrations: 11 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 695998490
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pinks, Pansies, and Punks

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- Male authors -- History and criticism.
  • Men in literature.
  • Masculinity in literature.
  • Social classes in literature.
  • Gender identity in literature.
  • Literature and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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