Towards New Masculinity: Great Literature and the Rediscovery of Manhood
In this paper I argue that traditional and vital concepts of manhood in the West have largely given way to an inert culture of passivity and escapism as men become less aware of past conceptions of manhood. Post-Modern culture neglects the past,and thus isolates the western male from the single resource they most need in order to rehabilitate manhood, namely "Old Books"/"Great Literature". The superficial fantasies of vicarious manhood (technology, consumerism, computer games, spectator sports, etc.) fail to cultivate a masculinity aware of its historical and social responsiblities; a manhood capable of acting in history for the betterment of mankind. Although literature has largely been used, of late, as a platform for feminism and for the demonstration of the evils of patriarchy and masculine hegemony, I argue that in doing this we have acted excessively. The increasing feminization of literary studies fails in this key respect: that it makes reading literature increasingly irrevelant to male readers unless, that is, they have become complicit in the feminization of culture. In this paper I offer two brief, but telling, readings of familiar literary passages in order to demonstrate that literature offers the best hope for a renewal of masculine culture that is both sensitive to its own liabilities yet also active and able to propose new ways of being male in the post-modern world.
Keywords: Masculinity, Great Literature, Renewal of Manhood
Dr. Karl G. Wilcox
Associate Professor of English, English Department, Southwestern Adventist University