Leading with the Chin: Writing American Masculinities in Esquire, 1960–1989
Published: November 2018© 2018
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 288 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
288 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.50 in
Leading with the Chin focuses on the Esquire writings of James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, and Tim O’Brien to examine how these authors negotiated important shifts in American masculinity. Using the works of these six authors as case studies, Leading with the Chin argues that Esquire permitted writers to confront national fantasies of American masculinity as they were impacted by the rise of neoliberalism, civil rights and gay rights, and the cultural dominance of the professional-managerial class.
Applying the methodologies of periodical studies and the theoretical concerns of masculinity studies, this book recontextualizes the prose and fiction of these authors by analyzing them in the material context of the magazine. Relating each author’s articulation of masculinity to the advertisements, editorials, and articles published in each issue, Leading with the Chin shows that Esquire reflected and helped to shape the forces that structured American masculinity in the twentieth century.
Introduction: The Crisis of Masculinity and the Problem of Identity
Theoretical and Methodological Background
Case Study: November 1958
Part One: Recovering Masculinity in the 1960s
1 American Dreams, Gendered Nightmares
1. The Crisis of Masculinity and the Problem of Conformity
2. Hegemonic Masculinity in An American Dream
3. An American Dream and Esquire Magazine
2 Cooling It with James Baldwin
1. Baldwin’s Critique of Hegemonic Masculinity
2. Baldwin’s Queer Critique of Race in Esquire
3. "James Baldwin Tells Us All How to Cool It This Summer"
Part Two: "The Richness of Life Itself" in the 1970s
3 Low-Rent Tragedies of Beset Manhood
1. "The Market Represents": Esquire, Carver, and Consumer Realism
2. Carver’s First Esquire Story: "Neighbors" and the "Space" of Advertising
3. "What Is It?" and "Collectors" – Reified Masculinities, Diminished Selfhood
4 True Men and Queer Spaces in Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers
1. Gay Visibility and Esquire’s Queer ’70s
2. Capote’s Critique of Heteronormativity
3. Fugitives from the Gender Order: Best-Kept Boys and Queer Utopias
Part Three: Cold Warriors of the 1980s
5 Sexual Fallout in Tim O’Brien’s The Nuclear Age
1. Cold War Discourse and Gender Trouble in The Nuclear Age
2. Cold Warriors and Cowboys: "Somewhere the Duke Is Smiling"
3. Retrenching the Domestic Sphere in "Grandma’s Pantry"
4. "Ovaries Like Hand Grenades": Emphasized Femininities in The Nuclear Age
6 Don DeLillo in the American Kitchen
1. "Men in Small Rooms": American Masculinity, American Kitchens
2. "Suck in That Gut, America!": JFK’s Exemplary Masculinities
3. Getting a Grip on the Runaway World: The Author as Exemplary Masculinity
Conclusion: How to Be a Man
"Leading with the Chin is a major contribution to research in the field of masculinity studies. In the current climate in which discussions of toxic masculinity have become more frequent and urgent, Brad Congdon’s book is relevant and timely."Maggie McKinley, Department of English, Harper College
"Leading with the Chin hones in on a key genre—the middlebrow magazine—as it enabled and disavowed dominant and emergent forms of masculinity. As much as scholars in US modernism have demonstrated how vital magazine culture was for pre-1945 experimental writing, Brad Congdon does the same for the post-World War II era. This is important recovery work for a genre often neglected by the field."Scott Herring, Department of English, Indiana University Bloomington
- Winner -
2018 Robert K. Martin Prize awarded by the Canadian Association for American Studies
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