By James Penner
Pinks, Pansies, and Punks charts the development of masculinity inside of American literary tradition from the Nineteen Thirties to the Seventies. Penner files the emergence of "macho criticism," and explores how debates approximately "hard" and "soft" masculinity encouraged the category struggles of the Thirties, anti-communism within the Nineteen Forties and Fifties, and the conflict among the outdated Left and the recent Left within the Sixties. by way of extending literary tradition to incorporate not only novels, performs, and poetry, yet diaries, journals, manifestos, screenplays, and essays on psychology and sociology, Penner unveils the multiplicity of gender attitudes that emerge in all of the many years he addresses. (2011)
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Additional info for Pinks, Pansies, and Punks: The Rhetoric of Masculinity in American Literary Culture
In the end, these anomalies are worth noting because they suggest that the range of masculine identities is far more diverse and pluralistic than we have realized; they also suggest that the various monolithic and static conceptions of masculinity that existed before second wave feminism and gay liberation often depended on denying that these contradictions exist. In this study of hyperbolic literary masculinities, my use of the term “literary culture” is fairly broad, and it includes novels, plays, poetry, diaries, journals, manifestos, essays, literary criticism, journalism, nonfiction, essays from psychology and sociology, and screenplays that have been turned into Hollywood films.
The irony of Gold, the classic homophobe, adoring Whitman is familiar in macho criticism. When one scratches the surface, one discovers that the apparently water-tight gender theories that conflate class and masculine type often contain an ideological leak. I have begun my discussion of the 1930s with the Gold-Wilder controversy to problematize the traditional way of approaching the literature of that era. 4 For example, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is correctly read as a social protest novel.
Chapter Overviews My study of the politics of masculinity in American literary culture begins in the Depression because the decade is dominated by the masculine cult of virility and the overthrow of the so-called effete Introduction 23 genteel tradition, the two antipodes of the hard/soft dichotomy. The first chapter examines Michael Gold’s attack on Thornton Wilder and how that literary scandal establishes the gender parameters of the literary class struggle of the 1930s. I also include a detailed discussion of Lewis Terman and Catharine Miles’s Sex and Personality (1936), a work in applied psychology that documents the notion of hard-shell masculinity, and what I have termed the hypermasculine ideal.