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I’m No Princess

Super Hero Girls Together

Lucy I. Baker

DC Super Hero Girls (DCSHG) is a trans-media franchise that includes not just screen media texts but a wide array of themed merchandise aimed at a multi-generational market. I argue here that key components of the franchise present a queered version of girlhood that critiques femininity as a gender role while presenting femaleness as encompassing a variety of signifiers, acts, and presentations that can be read as queer (particularly by the so-called big girls in the audience). This is evident in the representation of queer relationships that exist in the sexualized zone of the canonical material, allowing the DCSHG characters to inhabit a liminal proto-queer space between homosocial/gender non-conforming and lesbian that is considered more appropriate for young girls. I examine the way in which the DC Super Hero Girls franchise rejects and reforms familiar elements of comics, super heroism, and princess culture to create that space for girls.

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“And much more I am soryat for my good knyghts”

Fainting, Homosociality, and Elite Male Culture in Middle English Romance

Rachel E. Moss

In Middle English romances, public and semi-public displays of emotion are used by elite men to strengthen and promote hegemonic masculinity. This article examines how male fainting, as an act witnessed and sometimes replicated by an audience of men, serves to reinforce homosocial bonds, and to highlight the heroic qualities that make these characters capable of such deep, public sorrow. Late medieval patriarchy is dependent upon the homosocial bonding of elite men, and as such lionizes not only friendship between individual men, but also their collective unity as a body bound by social, political, and emotional ties. Fainting, as a performative act, provides a physical representation of both this collective identity and of specific virtues associated with male nobility.

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'It is impossible to be gentler'

The Homoerotics of Male Nursing in Dickens's Fiction

Holly Furneaux

Eve Sedgwick's Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) has had a hugely enabling impact on gay, lesbian and queer studies, and its two chapters on Dickens do the initially useful work of recognising the existence of alternative sexualities within his work. Yet, Sedgwick insists that Dickens always offers such representations from an inherently homophobic perspective. Though recognising a debt to Sedgwick, this article is strongly committed to demonstrating the fallacy of her influential paradigm that the homoerotic emerges most strongly in Dickens's work through violence. Sedgwickian readings privilege the cultural currency of sexual violence, built up through contemporary modes such as flagellatory pornography. However, other, gentler ways of touching also had highly erotic connotations during the period of Dickens's career. This paper focuses on the Victorian sexualisation of nursing, arguing that Dickens deploys the eroticising of nurse/patient roles in Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations to develop more affirmative, tender strategies for articulating desire between men.

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Tom Brown's Schooldays

'Sportsex' in Victorian Britain

Andy Harvey

Thomas Hughes's idealised vision of life at Rugby public school is one of the best-known novels in the English language. It was regarded from the outset as a founding text of 'muscular Christianity'. Contrary to the intentions of its author, it helped to inaugurate the cult of 'manly' athleticism that swept through the English public schools in the second half of the nineteenth-century. I argue that the novel reveals tensions around gender and sexuality that were in play among public schoolboys during the second half of the nineteenth century. These tensions exploded into full public view in the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 and were instrumental in helping to establish a structure of homophobia within homosocial settings that has lasted through to the present day.

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Erica L. Fraser

With the onset of the Cold War and a new nuclear world order, Soviet physicists found themselves at the nexus of scientific research and weapons development. This article investigates the subjectivity of these physicists as an issue of masculinity. Influenced by Connell's models of subordinated, complicit, and hegemonic masculinity, the article finds that the stories nuclear physicists tell about their research in the 1950s are inconsistent and shifting, with the narrators simultaneously remembering unfreedom and privilege. They tell of being conscripted to military work against their will but then enjoying (and deserving) the resulting power, all while maintaining strong homosocial networks in the laboratory predicated on excluding women. Evidence from personal narratives provides unique insight into these multiple masculinities and the way the authors position themselves as (masculinized) Cold War subjects.

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“I Love You, Guys”

A Study of Inclusive Masculinities among High School Cross-Country Runners

Luis Morales and Edward Caffyn-Parsons

This empirical study examines sixteen- to seventeen-year-old heterosexual male cross-country athletes from a diverse, middle-class high school in California and how they express physical tactility and emotional intimacy in a culture of diminished homohysteria. Using participative and non-participative observations of the team, coupled with ten in-depth interviews, we find acceptance of gay men, and note a range of homosocial behaviors including bed-sharing, cuddling, hand holding, hugging, and emotional intimacy. We discuss the ways in which heterosexual boundaries and identities are maintained, and the process by which normalizing heterosexuality as the assumed sexual orientation contributes to heterosexism. Despite the reproduction of heterosexism, the relationships these high school athletes form with each other are not predicated on homophobia or hypermasculinity. Finally, we discuss adolescent expressions of masculinity in the transition to manhood and in the face of diminishing homohysteria.

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Outsmarting the Nation, Together

Subversive Virtual Fraternity in the Israeli Men's Magazine Blazer

Steven Fraiberg and Danny Kaplan

This article examines the reconstruction of a virtual Israeli male fraternity in Israel's only men's lifestyle magazine, Blazer. Modeled after the global 'new lad' magazine format, the Blazer text engages its readers by forging a homosocial joking relationship. Focusing on a satire dedicated to Israel's Independence Day, this study delineates a series of parodic discursive practices employed by the narrators to deconstruct and appropriate traditional Zionist myths on which Israel was founded. The Blazer text thus mobilizes a key cultural trope known as the anti-freier frame (to avoid being a 'sucker'), implemented as a set of manipulations to outsmart the system. The Blazer text rearticulates the relationship between self and society based on a local version of the 'yuppie' value system. We argue that while this frame appears to reject collectivist values, it serves as a critical lens for connecting yuppie masculinity with its Sabra predecessor, thereby consolidating a modified form of national solidarity.

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"The Dangerous Book Four Boys"

James Franco's Psychosexual Artistic Explorations of Boyhood

Dinah Holtzman

In 2010, James Franco debuted his exhibition “The Dangerous Book Four Boys” at the Clocktower Gallery. He appropriated his title from the Igguldens’ guidebook The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006). This paper explores Franco’s representation of boyhood, focusing on his anxiety over traditional gender roles. Dangerous depicts boyhood as a homosocial and homoerotic realm in which women are both envied and elided. Franco’s vision of boyhood is premised upon a longing for both domestic structures and practices. The exhibit is organized around several small rough-hewn wooden structures resembling small houses. Inside the constructions, the films Destroy House and Castle depict young men destroying identical domiciles with axes, shotguns and blowtorches. Ironically, these violent depictions are safely contained within intact replicas of the very structures being destroyed in the films. These constructions are emblematic of Franco’s fraught relationship to masculinity, stereotypical gender roles and domesticity.

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Transition, Crisis and Nostalgia

Youth Masculinity and Postfeminism in Contemporary Hollywood, an Analysis of Superbad

Victoria Cann and Erica Horton

This article explores the representation of youth masculinity in contemporary Hollywood comedy. By focusing on the intersection of gender and generation, it emphasizes the importance of relationality in a consideration of representations of boyhood. Using Superbad as a case study, this article reveals the nuanced ways in which the crisis of masculinity is represented in popular culture in a postfeminist context. Foregrounding issues of homosociality in coming-of-age narratives, it emphasizes the tensions between generational expectations and performances of gender. Themes of loss and nostalgia are explored through analysis of the juxtaposition of adult and adolescent male characters in Superbad, providing insight into and understanding of the complexities of boyhood. Superbad is contextualized in relation to teen comedy more broadly, highlighting the important cultural space that contemporary Hollywood comedies play in (re)constructing discourses of masculinity.