The Tall Tale Male: Literary Versions of American Manhood
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The rugged frontiersman, the wealthy self-made entrepreneur, the stoic lone wolf; these are classic archetypes, embodiments of an enduring mythos-- American Masculinity. The doctrine of ideal manliness and its many incarnations have occupied a central place in American literature since colonial times. These representations that still exists in countless cultural iterations. The literary periods studied in this course were witness to writers that continually constructed and deconstructed the myths of paternal heroism and ideal masculinity. From Romanticism to Modernism authors, like James’s Fennimore Cooper, and F. Scott Fitzgerald helped to create the lore of American Manhood by investigating cultural notions gender and self that were emblematic of their time.
Romantic Author James’s Fennimore Cooper created characters in the tradition of independence and self-control. Apart of his “Leather Stockings” series, “The Last of The Mohicans,” uses the American frontier an aesthetic articulation of male Identity. (“Masculine Heroes” American Passages Voices and Visions) In an excerpt from Cooper’s classic, “From Volume I Chapter III”, (Cooper. 485-491) the reader is introduced to the recurring character Natty Bumppo – referred to as Hawkeye-- and his friend Chingachgook. Both men can be seen as representations of the American Frontier, Heroes that embody the mythic elements in Cooper’s setting. They are rugged frontiersmen that thrive self-sufficiently, in a world of harsh realities.
Hawkeye is a man living on the border between wilderness and civilization, between Native American and European culture (“Masculine Heroes” American Passages Voices and Visions) Hawkeye is a man living on the border between wilderness and civilization, ...
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... own relationships, and depicted his own seemingly conflicted attitude toward the overweening masculinity of his time. In "Winter Dreams,", Dexter Greene attempts to exhibit the quality his generation associated with manhood will-power, self-sufficiency, and affluence, buts fall short, because he does not display a dominate roll in his relationship with Judy. He allows his willpower and judgment to be obscured but emotional desire. Thus, Dexter represents Fitzgerald’s reconceptualization of male identity, an identity made more emotionally realistic by balancing what were historically considered feminine traits with conventional male attributes. Showing the ways in which these exceptions are illusions. (“Modernist Portraits” American Passages Voices and Visions.)
The Time spanning the Romanic and Modernist eras was witness to the evolving mythos of American manhood.