Violent Masculinities in Early Modern Literature and Culture--Edited Collection (Abstracts due 6/20/2011)

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Catherine Thomas and Jennifer Feather

How does understanding violence and masculinity as interrelated illuminate intersections between religious, national, sexual, ranked, or racial identities? Excellent scholarship in gender studies over the past several decades has emphasized the extent to which masculinity has been an under-examined norm and stressed the many forms masculinity takes in the early modern period. This collection builds on those efforts by interrogating how masculinity and violence are specifically linked and by considering the ways multiple identity categories simultaneously influence constructions of masculinity.

More critical work remains to explain the dynamic individual, cultural, and institutional forces that shaped and reinforced early modern manhood. Social expectations for men came under extreme pressure during a period that famously saw the rise of humanism and the decline of the armed knight. As a result, definitions of masculinity underwent significant shifts, spurred in part by legal changes (such as dueling prohibitions) and social changes (like the rise of courtiership) that regulated the practice of violence in new ways, and early modern literature plays a central role in constituting and contesting these models of masculine selfhood. It depicts everything from mob violence to highly ritualized tilts; from domestic murders to elaborate spectacles of revenge; and from comic tavern fights to full-scale battles. Gendered representations of violence are a means of exploring the linkages between multiple competing social pressures for men. Studying masculine subjectivity in terms of violence helps elucidate the specific connections and disruptions between various ideals in the early modern period, while simultaneously expanding our definition of what counts as violence.

This volume explores how such acts of wounding, verbal assault, and psychological and spatial manipulation inform early modern masculinity. We welcome papers considering historical, theoretical, literary and/or aesthetic approaches to the topic and hope to bring together a range of scholars working on gender studies, early modern embodiment, sexuality studies, race studies, trauma studies, and on violence and representation. Please send detailed abstracts of 500-700 words and a brief professional biography to Catherine Thomas ( or Jennifer Feather ( by June 20, 2011 for consideration.