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The Trials of Masculinity Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930 cover
  • ISBN: 9780226500676
  • ISBN10: 0226500675

The Trials of Masculinity Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930

by Angus McLaren

  • List Price: $28.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 06/01/1997
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Modern formulations of masculinity, despite the sense of naturalness and constancy with which we often view them, are in fact the idealized cultural products of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this path-breaking history of manhood and masculinity, Angus McLaren convincingly defends this assertion, and cogently examines the process of social construction whereby this traditionalized model of the heterosexual male was selected, delineated, and maintained.

In order to critique the masculine paradigm, McLaren must focus his analytical attention on two domains essential to the legitimation of Western cultural constructs, medicine and the law. Time and again, in the courtroom dramas of the day, in cases of murder, seduction, and fraud, the "manliness" of a defendant's actions was carefully considered by judge and jury, and fiercely contested by attorneys on both sides of the bar. Through court reports and newspaper accounts, McLaren skillfully shows how everyday people, not just the juridical elite, helped to define through their testimony an ideal of manhood and proper masculine behavior.

But while courtrooms were fixated on masculine norms, the medical world was concerned more and more with "abnormality". Psychiatrists and sexologists emerged as arbiters of sexual and gender differences, devising new categories of deficient masculinity -- homosexuals, sadists, exhibitionists, and transvestites. The very formulation of these deviant types required the medical community, by implication, to further demarcate a particular form of preferred masculinity.

Through this elegant work of uncommon authority and insight, Angus McLaren successfully challenges some of our mostfundamentally gendered assumptions and compels us to reassess in the very nature of sexual boundaries the essential limits of the masculine.

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MCLAREN, ANGUS. The Trials of Masculinity: Policing Sexual Boundaries 1870-1930. The University of Chicago Press, (1997). 307 pp., hdcvr 1st printing, v.g. +/v.g.25.00.
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