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Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory
In medieval allegory, Body and Soul were often pitted against one another in debate. In Body Against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory, Masha Raskolnikov argues that such debates function as a mode of thinking about psychology, gender, and power in the Middle Ages. Neither theological nor medical in nature, works of sowlehele (“soul-heal”) described the self to itself in everyday language—moderns might call this kind of writing “self-help.” Bringing together contemporary feminist and queer theory along with medieval psychological thought, Body Against Soul examines Piers Plowman, the “Katherine Group,” and the history of psychological allegory and debate. In so doing, it rewrites the history of the Body to include its recently neglected fellow, the Soul. The topic of this book is one that runs through all of Western history and remains of primary interest to modern theorists—how “my” body relates to “me.” In the allegorical tradition traced by this study, a male person could imagine himself as a being populated by female personifications, because Latin and Romance languages tended to gender abstract nouns as female. However, since Middle English had ceased to inflect abstract nouns as male or female, writers were free to gender abstractions like “Will” or “Reason” any way they liked. This permitted some psychological allegories to avoid the representational tension caused by placing a female soul inside a male body, instead creating surprisingly queer same-sex inner worlds. The didactic intent driving sowlehele is, it turns out, complicated by the erotics of the struggle to establish a hierarchy of the self’s inner powers.
Gender, Health, and the Selling of Fitness
Are you ripped? Do you need to work on your abs? Do you know your ideal body weight? Your body fat index? Increasingly, Americans are being sold on a fitness ideal not just thin but toned, not just muscular but cut that is harder and harder to reach. In Body Panic, Shari L. Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs ask why. How did these particular body types come to be "fit"? And how is it that having an unfit, or "bad," body gets conflated with being an unfit, or "bad," citizen?
Dworkin and Wachs head to the newsstand for this study, examining ten years worth of men's and women's health and fitness magazines to determine the ways in which bodies are "made" in today's culture. They dissect the images, the workouts, and the ideology being sold, as well as the contemporary links among health, morality, citizenship, and identity that can be read on these pages. While women and body image are often studied together, Body Panic considers both women's and men's bodies side-by-side and over time in order to offer a more in-depth understanding of this pervasive cultural trend.
Body Politics and the Fictional Double
Edited by Debra Walker King
Examines the disjunction between women's appearance and reality.
In recent years, questions concerning "the body" and its place in postmodern discourses have taken center stage in academic disciplines. Body Politics joins these discussions by focusing on the challenges women face when their externally defined identities and representations as bodies -- their body fictions -- speak louder than what they know to be their true selves.
Racialized, gendered, or homophobic body fictions disfigure individuals by placing them beneath a veil of invisibility and by political, emotional, or spiritual suffocation. As objects of interpretation, "female bodies" in search of health care, legal assistance, professional respect, identity confirmation, and financial security must first confront their fictionalized doubles in a collision that, in many cases, ends in disappointment, distress, and even suicide.
The contributors reflect on women's day-to-day lives and the cultural productions (literature, MTV, film, etc.) that give body fictions their power and influence. By exploring how these fictions are manipulated politically, expressively, and communally, they offer reinterpretations that challenge the fictional double while theorizing the discursive and performative forms it takes.
Contributors include Trudier Harris, Maude Hines, S. Yumiko Hulvey, Debra Walker King, Sue V. Rosser, Stephanie A. Smith, Maureen Turim, Caroline Vercoe, Gloria Wade-Gayles, and Rosemary Weatherston.
Debra Walker King, Associate Professor of English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, is author of Deep Talk: Reading African American Literary Names. She has published articles and reviews in Names: the Journal of the American Name Society; Philosophy and Rhetoric; and African American Review.
Introduction: Body Fictions, Debra Walker King
Who Says an Older Woman Can't/Shouldn't Dance?, Gloria Wade-Gayles
When Body Politics of Partial Identifications Collide with Multiple Identities of Real Academics: Limited Understandings of Research and Truncated Collegial Interactions, Sue V. Rosser
Body Language: Corporeal Semiotics, Literary Resistance, Maude Hines
Writing in Red Ink, Debra Walker King
Myths and Monsters: The Female Body as the Site for Political Agendas, S. Yumiko Hulvey
Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco, Caroline Vercoe
Performing Bodies, Performing Culture: An interview with Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamante, Rosemary Weatherston
Women Singing, Women Gesturing: The Gendered and Racially-Coded Body of Music Video, Maureen Turim
Bombshell, Stephanie A. Smith
Afterword: The Unbroken Circle of Assumptions, Trudier Harris
Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture
The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction
The figure of the violent man in the African American imagination has a long history. He can be found in 19th-century bad man ballads like "Stagolee" and "John Hardy," as well as in the black convict recitations that influenced "gangsta" rap. "Born in a Mighty Bad Land" connects this figure with similar characters in African American fiction. Many writers -- McKay and Hurston in the Harlem Renaissance; Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison in the '40s and '50s; Himes in the '50s and '60s -- saw the "bad nigger" as an archetypal figure in the black imagination and psyche. "Blaxploitation" novels in the '70s made him a virtually mythical character. More recently, Mosley, Wideman, and Morrison have presented him as ghetto philosopher and cultural adventurer. Behind the folklore and fiction, many theories have been proposed to explain the source of the bad man's intra-racial violence. Jerry H. Bryant explores all of these elements in a wide-ranging and illuminating look at one of the most misunderstood figures in African American culture.
Childbirth, Motherhood, and Social Networks in the Old South
In Born Southern, V. Lynn Kennedy addresses the pivotal roles of birth and motherhood in slaveholding families and communities in the Old South. She assesses the power structures of race, gender, and class—both in the household and in the public sphere—and how they functioned to construct a distinct antebellum southern society. Kennedy’s unique approach links the experiences of black and white women, examining how childbirth and motherhood created strong ties to family, community, and region for both. She also moves beyond a simple exploration of birth as a physiological event, examining the social and cultural circumstances surrounding it: family and community support networks, the beliefs and practices of local midwives, and the roles of men as fathers and professionals. The southern household—and the relationships among its members—is the focus of the first part of the book. Integrating the experiences of all women, black and white, rich and poor, free and enslaved, these narratives suggest the complexities of shared experiences that united women in a common purpose but also divided them according to status. The second part moves the discussion from the private household into the public sphere, exploring how southerners used birth and motherhood to negotiate public, professional, and political identities. Kennedy’s systematic and thoughtful study distinguishes southern approaches to childbirth and motherhood from northern ones, showing how slavery and rural living contributed to a particularly southern experience.
Educating Boys in Urban America, 1870–1970
Contemporary debates about the tendency toward poor academic performance among boys of color point to inadequate and punitive schools, poverty, and cultural conflicts. Julia Grant offers a historical perspective on the "boy problem," revealing it as an issue that has vexed educators for more than a century. Since compulsory schooling was enforced, immigrant, poor, and boys of color have constituted the most school-averse population with which educators have had to contend. Public schools developed vocational education, organized athletics, technical schools, and evening continuation schools—contributing to a culture of masculinity that devalued academic success in school. Urban educators sought ways to deal with the many "bad boys"—almost exclusively poor, immigrant, or migrant—who skipped school, behaved badly when they attended, and sometimes landed in special education classes and reformatory institutions. The problems these boys posed led to sustained innovations in public education and juvenile justice. This historical perspective sheds light on contemporary concerns over the academic performance of boys of color who now flounder in school or languish in the juvenile justice system. Grant's cogent analysis will interest education policymakers and educators, as well as scholars of the history of education, childhood, gender studies, American studies, and urban history.
Male Sensibility in America, 1890–1920
Are men truly predisposed to violence and aggression? Is it the biological fate of males to struggle for domination over women and vie against one another endlessly? These and related queries have long vexed philosophers, social scientists, and other students of human behavior. In Brutes in Suits, historian John Pettegrew examines theoretical writings and cultural traditions in the United States to find that, Darwinian arguments to the contrary, masculine aggression can be interpreted as a modern strategy for taking power. Drawing ideas from varied and at times seemingly contradictory sources, Pettegrew argues that traditionally held beliefs about masculinity developed largely through language and cultural habit—and that these same tools can be employed to break through the myth that brutishness is an inherently male trait. A major re-synthesis of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century manhood, Brutes in Suits develops ambitious lines of research into the social science of sexual difference and professional history’s celebration of rugged individualism; the hunting-and-killing genre of popular men’s literature; that master text of hypermasculinity: college football; military culture, war making, and finding pleasure in killing; and patriarchy, sexual jealousy, and the law. This timely assessment of the evolution of masculine culture will be welcomed and debated by social and intellectual historians for years to come.
Classic Hollywood Comedians and Queered Masculinity
Film scholars and fans have used distinctive terms to describe the Classic Hollywood comedian: He is a "trickster," a "rebel," or a "buffoon." Yet the performer is almost always described as a "he." In Buffoon Men: Classic Hollywood Comedians and Queered Masculinity, Scott Balcerzak reads the performances of notable comedians such as W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello through humor and queer theory to expose a problematic history of maleness in their personas. He argues that contrary to popular notions of Classic Hollywood history, these male comedians rearranged or, at times, rejected heteronormative protocols. Balcerzak begins by defining the particular buffoonish masculinity portrayed by early film comedians, a gender and genre construct influenced by the cultural anxieties of the 1930s and '40s. In chapter 1, he considers the onscreen pairing of W. C. Fields and Mae West to identify a queered sexuality and drag persona in Fields's performance, while in chapter 2 he examines the two major constructions of Fields's film persona-the confidence man and the husband-to show Fields to be a conflicted and subversive figure. In chapter 3, Balcerzak considers the assimilation and influence of Eddie Cantor as a Jewish celebrity, while he turns to the cross-media influence of Jack Benny's radio persona in chapter 4. In Chapters 5 and 6, he moves beyond the individual performer to examine the complex masculine brotherhood of comedy duos Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey. Buffoon Men shows that the complicated history of the male comedian during the early sound era has much to tell us about multimedia comedic stars today. Fans and scholars of film history, gender studies, and broadcast studies will appreciate Balcerzak's thorough exploration of the era's fascinating gender constructs.