Searching for the Truly Strong Man: Masculinities 1914-1945
SPECIAL ISSUE: 2024 (Volume 20)
The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945
The Great War presented models of masculinity both for itself and the years afterward: the Tommies, poilus, Mehmetçikler, doughboys, and others offered both continuities with, and breaks from, previous models. These models were in turn both continued and challenged by masculinities of the Second World War. The period thus delineated is not limited to martial masculinities, but rather offers a vast and complex range of figures and models. The global scope of the wars as well as the social and political environments between them—Jim Crow America, the rise of the Third Reich and concomitant persecution of so-called inferior groups, Gandhi’s Swaraj movement, and the Communist International—offer grist for the examination of masculinities as multivalent processes of representation and identification. This Special Issue of The Space Between sets out to map, to interrogate, and to reappraise these figures and their legacies, recognizing the intersections of masculinities with race, sexuality, class, and other aspects of experience.
If, on the one hand, Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp in Modern Times is a comic or tragi-comic figure of the common man, on the other we have the alleged heroics of Alexey Stakhanov as another form of what everyday men could or should be. Working men come in many forms: faceless cogs, proletarian heroes, anaemic straphangers, bronzed farmers, wizened sharecroppers, ‘lonely men in shirtsleeves,’ or the fortunate manual worker whose ‘home life seems to fall more naturally into a sane and comely shape’ according to George Orwell. A common thread running through their portrayals is that of models to emulate or avoid.
Alongside what work does to, and says about, masculinity (and vice versa) is the question of what a lack of work does. Aristocratic figures like the dandy and the toff raise as many issues as hoboes, bums and tramps about the performance and embodiment of masculinity, as do criminals such as the various versions of Mackie Messer (Bertolt Brecht’s, Kurt Weill’s, G.W. Pabst’s) and Jorge Luis Borges’s worlds of hoodlums. So too do scientific investigations of poverty and its representations both comic and tragic, fantastic and realistic.
Balancing the interest in realistic portrayals of masculinities is a fascination with stereotypes and fantasy figures. Auden’s Truly Strong Man reflects idolized sportsmen, adventurers, cowboys, aviators, and explorers. Toward the end of the period true superheroes such as Batman and Superman emerge coevally with the modern comic, creating dynamics around masculinities whose legacies remain with us in the twenty-first century. Stereotypes around race and class, as well as the impact of orientalist discourse as the foundations of Anglo-European empires shake, offer visions of masculinity as an intersectional process enacted in site-specific contexts that yet draw on awareness of global shifts.
Still continuing too are the legacies of queer masculinities from the period, in discourses around homosexuality, transgender identities, androgyny, and cross-dressing. The experiences of British writers in Germany and their later accounts of them; André Gide’s autobiographical writings; the erotic art of Duncan Grant: these and many more examples add to the complexities and richness of early twentieth-century ideas and ideals of masculinity.
The types of masculinity the period portrays, praises, and pillories are multitudinous, and this special issue seeks a wide range of explorations across disciplines including art and literature, periodical studies, history, performance, and the archives, as well as contributions that reflect on the period in texts far removed from it chronologically.
Suggested topics for the exploration of masculinity include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
All versions of the comic (from comic books to comedians and comic characters)
- Propaganda and state-sponsored policies
- Intersections with queerness, race, whiteness, class, ethnicity, age, and ability, as well as representations that challenge masculinity as a discrete category
- Domestic masculinities, including men in domestic service
- Detectives and villains
- Developmental phases from boyhood to the grave
- War and military
- Intersection with technology
- Travel and leisure activities
- Clothing and other performances
- In genre fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc.) or fantastic modes
- Colonialism and orientalism
Please submit essays of 6,000-7,500 words in Times New Roman 12 pt., with MLA citation style, to the special issue editor, Luke Seaber (firstname.lastname@example.org) by December 31, 2023. We welcome queries and proposed topics prior to submission and will provide advice and comment. With the manuscript, submit an abstract, five keywords, and a one-paragraph abstract (250 words maximum). All digital images, film stills, and media files should be sent separately (not embedded in documents or PDFs); permissions and associated fees are the responsibility of individual authors. Guidelines on these and other submissions matters are available through the journal's webpage (accessible by links from CFP, listed below).
Note: The general editor continues to review manuscripts on other topics of interest to the readership of The Space Between, and general features (essays on other topics) will be considered for publication in volumes 19, 20, and beyond. These submissions can be sent to the general editor, Jennifer Nesbitt, email@example.com.
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