This panel proposes to look at how several American authors in the 20th century questioned “what is male/masculine?” in a century when feminism drastically altered the answer to “what is female/feminine?” The panelists will examine how their authors undertook that task by asking one central question: How does the author construct what it means to be masculine in an age when that is no longer a foregone determination? What tools, roles, tasks and/or world views are depicted in/by the male characters, either in strait-forward depiction or by implication, that inform the reader of the author’s understanding of being male in the modern world? Do these depictions continue unimpeded along the spectrum from the male-dominated 19th century, or does the woman’s movement push the author off of that earlier, unquestioned center to one that must account for equitable gender relations and its attendant social alterations, and thus launch a challenge to perceptions and depictions of what it means to be a man? Surely there can be as many answers to the question of what masculinity means as there are authors answering that question, but this panel will allow for a follow-up conversation about how the American literary world has either contended with or attempted to ignore this major social issue.
Kathleen McDonald, Ph.D.
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