Creating a New Ideal of Masculinity for American Men

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This work examines the male characters presented in each of the following works: Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World (1850), Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall (1855), Harriet E. Wilson’s Our Nig (1859), and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). These sentimental women authors presented masculine ideals in their literature and have played an important role in the construction of gender in America.


“Nicole Willey has written here a feminist study that puts cultural masculinities into new contexts of difference in new relational ways that distinguish American cultural studies and suggest a distinct advance in various major conversations in the field. ... Nicole Willey is already taking criticism out ahead where it needs to be.” - Philip D. Beidler, Professor of English, University of Alabama

“Willey’s is a well-organized, convincing study which will shed new light on the power of sentimental writers and which will prove indispensable to students of American history, nineteenth-century American literature, and gender studies.” - Dr. Monika Elbert, Professor of English, Montclair State University

“Issues of masculinity are not new in nineteenth-century studies; however, most of these studies focus on male writers’ constructions of masculinity. Nicole Willey takes a fresh approach in her manuscript, by focusing on the ways nineteenth-century women writers produced varying forms of masculinities in their work. Such work as Willey’s is crucial to understanding gender in US culture.” - Dr. Debra Bernardi, Associate Professor, Department of Languages and Literature, Carroll College

Table of Contents

Foreword by Philip D. Beidler
1 Today’s “Villains” as Warner’s Virile Heroes
2 Portraits of Displeasure: The Question of Men’s Necessity in Ruth Hall
3 Our Nig and Gender Fluidity: How Class and Race Define Gender
4 To Free Herself: Harriet Jacobs’ Survival Strategies and Mostly Male Networks
5 Concluding Remarks

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