Academic journal article American Studies

SEX AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS: The American Quest for a Relatable Past

Academic journal article American Studies

SEX AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS: The American Quest for a Relatable Past

Article excerpt

SEX AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS: The American Quest for a Relatable Past. By Thomas A. Foster. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 2014.

Given the prominence of the Founding Fathers in popular and scholarly histories of the United States, an examination of over two hundred years of commentary on the sexual lives of six prominent Founders (Washington, Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris) should illuminate issues of national identity. Such is the project and promise of Thomas A. Foster's Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past. "Americans," he writes, "increasingly need to know what is American and see themselves in that definition" (5). How we think and have thought about the sex lives of the Founders will, he believes, fulfill that need in great part.

A brief introduction (eight-and-a-half pages) is followed by six biographical chapters, a form selected to "engage with the construction of public memory. . .as well as to consider the ways that biography itself participates in defining manliness and appropriate sexualities more generally" (7). These are promises not kept. We get snapshots, so to speak, of different aspects of someone's reputation at different times, but very little about how these help us understand masculine identity configurations over time. Most importantly, Foster never demonstrates his most important claim: "how gendered sexuality has long figured in our national identity via the public memory" (9). Even as he shows the continuing interest in the "real lives" (2) of the Founders, he never demonstrates how this gendered sexuality has mattered to national identity. Understanding how power and/or authority are formed and operate is never so simple as to be taken for granted. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.