Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth-Century America

Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth-Century America

Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth-Century America

Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth-Century America

Synopsis

David G. Pugh examines the evolution and shape of the cult of masculinity in nineteenth-century America. The author contends that the men of the time had been cut loose from their traditional cultural moorings and required a leader with strength, endurance, and bravado. They sought these mythical Jacksonian qualities as a defense against aimless drifting and the anonymity and real dangers of the frontier. Attitudes of nineteenth-century men toward women and heterosexuality are revealed as a web of sexual anxieties, repression, and sublimation that fostered the conviction that manliness could best be achieved through independence from women. Pugh then assesses the impact of the Jacksonian legacy on the latter half of the century, and demonstrates that our modern conceptions of manliness and masculinity are deeply rooted in nineteenth-century prototypes.

Excerpt

Our age, it seems, bears witness toEmerson observation in "The American Scholar" that Americans have a knack for becoming good fingers, necks, and stomachs but not whole and happy human beings. While I certainly have no magic formula for wholeness or happiness, one thing has become increasingly apparent to me over the years: a satisfying intellectual life involves, at some point, a movement toward integrated knowledge and synthesis, a putting together of pieces rather than a further dividing and subdividing of them. Certainly we need specialists -- to argue otherwise would be silly and pointless, given the complexities of modern life and the knowledge we have thus far accumulated -- but I would also suggest that specialization is, or should be, a means to an end and not an end in itself, whether in the sciences, the humanities, or the social sciences. in their approaches to discovery, thought, and learning, our best researchers, scholars, and teachers support this claim.

Similarly, Thoreau -- known chiefly in humanities circles but no slouch as a scientist, either -- wrote in a journal entry for May 6, 1854, that "the sum of what the writer of whatever class has . . .

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