The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 18.2 (2004) 164-167
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The editors of Revealing Male Bodies suggest that the anthology should be understood as a unique contribution to an already significant field of study. As the editors see it, what is particularly important about this collection is its commitment to the phenomenology of male embodiment. Where other works have investigated male roles, masculine ideals, or socioeconomic issues around men, these have failed to offer "accounts of how men's lives are impacted by their embodied experiences and their perceptions of their own bodies" (1). This collection is then aimed, at least in part, at filling this void. What strikes me most about these comments is that Revealing Male Bodies is not dominated by men reflecting on their own bodies. This is not to say that these accounts are absent from the text—the essays by Patrick McGann, Steven P. Schacht, Don Ihde and [End Page 164] Maurice Hamington are built largely upon the authors' considerations of their own bodies, often with very telling results. The other nine essays, however, do not seem to fit in a collection that, as the back cover tells us, "directly confronts male lived experience" (emphasis mine).
Of course, the editors may simply just mean that when men write about (other) men's experiences they are "directly" confronting such experience. This is suggested by Nancy Tuana's comment in the "Preface": "I believe that phenomenologies of male embodiment can best be undertaken by those who have moved through the world as men, and who thus have the requisite experiential base for such accounts" (x). In this way, Revealing Male Bodies might be understood as a venue for men writing about male embodiment, though not necessarily their own bodies. But even this characterization runs into trouble, first of all because this does not seem nearly as novel. Would this really be the first scholarly collection to deal with this kind of writing? And why would the editors include the essay "Does Size Matter?" from Susan Bordo, whose "experiential base" would presumably allow only an "indirect" confrontation of male lived experience?
In the postscript, editors Maurice Hamington and William Cowling suggest that the (admittedly "precarious") common feature of the contributions is one of "considering men and the experience of their bodies" (287). As far as I can tell, this is the best description of what the collection brings together. Of course, this description also leads to questions—for example, why is Bordo the only female author represented, since women can certainly "consider" men, and "the experience" (as opposed to "his experience") of their bodies?
Part of this ambiguity in design is no doubt simply the result of collecting disparate essays under one title, which is always present to some degree in collected editions. Moreover, I assume that a collection with five editors is especially disposed to this sort of tension. The good news is that, regardless of whether Revealing Male Bodies lives up to all of the characterizations of its purpose and promise, it does deliver in terms of bringing together some extremely interesting and often provocative essays that engage the male body in a number of ways.
Terrance MacMullan's introduction, "What is Male Embodiment," helps to situate the text in a couple of ways. One is through comments on the theoretical background for the collection, in which he offers very clear and concise and thus helpful summaries of the influence of Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Jacques Lacan. Given this backdrop, as well as a growing scholarly interest in masculinities, MacMullan characterizes the particular strengths of this collection as three-fold. First, it supplements the work of phenomenologists like Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre, by paying more attention to the "vicissitudes of male embodied experience in its racial, economic, and sexual variety" (2). Second, the text enhances "current analyses of the...