New Men: Manliness in Early America

New Men: Manliness in Early America

New Men: Manliness in Early America

New Men: Manliness in Early America

Excerpt

What, then, is the American, this new man?

—J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, 1782

In 1782, when J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur published his description of American society and wrestled with what it meant to be an American, he articulated a question that many were asking: “What, then, is the American, this new man?” For every generation that followed, the question has resonated. New Men takes up Crevecoeur’s question and applies it to early America using the insights of gender history. It approaches the history of masculinity as a feminist project in that it signals the gendered subjectivity of men and highlights the social and cultural construction of that subject position, especially with regard to power relations. While scholarship on women in early America has demonstrated the centrality of gender to understandings of womanhood, men, long at the center of historical studies, have only relatively recently been examined as gendered subjects.

New Men examines masculinity in British America from European settlement through the Revolutionary era. It argues that understandings of manliness significantly shaped the founding and development of early America. Historians have shown that in early America successful manhood rested on the establishment of a household, the securing of a calling or career, and the self-control over one’s masculine comportment. Within this broad framework, the essays in this volume examine how the conditions of early America affected those norms and ideals of masculinity and linked them to ever-changing regional and nascent American identities. The essays here collectively address the variety of standards and ideals of manliness in early America and highlight the breadth of differences among them.

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