Course: Perspectives on American Manhood

HC 424H/431H

Professor: Tim Williams

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: a Social Science Colloquium and an IP Multicultural class. If the student has already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class will fulfill an Elective Colloquium and an IP Multicultural class.

In this colloquium, we will explore the multiple, changing, and diverse meanings of manhood in North America and the United States from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The rationale is that understanding changing attitudes, expressions, and constructions of gender—in particular masculinity—offers a unique and interdisciplinary opportunity to evaluate American culture. Ultimately, this multi-disciplinary approach should provide ample room to explore various constructions of American masculinity as well as understand the role that negative images, or opposites, played in this construction, including womanhood, slavery, boyhood, homosexuality, and racial and class differences.

We will begin with a theoretical discussion of gender, especially its foundations in women’s studies and history. Then we will explore manhood in the context of specific thematic units such as politics, family, region, race, bodies, sexuality, intellectual life, and popular culture. Expect to read and evaluate both scholarly works from a wide range of academic disciplines and primary sources, including short novels like Herman Mellville’s Billy Budd and Edgar Rice Bourroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. Assignments will include writing book reviews of scholarly work, leading discussions based on outside reading, and at least one crucial essay on the course themes and readings.