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Cultural Studies Program

Courses :: CULS C701 Topic: Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema

In this course, we will explore the manifestations of diverse kinds of masculinities in Hollywood and independent cinema in the context of social and historical developments in the United States in the 20th and early 21st centuries. As a foundation, we will examine the deep cultural roots of one of the most persistent (and one of the most deconstructed) of masculine ideals—the rugged individualist—as he is incarnated in the Western cowboy-hero and later embodied by heroes in other kinds of films. We then study masculine types that depart from this model, considering how ethnicity, race, homosexuality, and other kinds of “difference” have figured in male portrayals, making the depiction of masculinity in American cinema more complex than it might at first appear. As we explore these depictions across American film history and culture, we will discuss a range of other issues as well. These include the way that star personas affect the audience’s perception of masculinity; the impact of genres, such as Westerns, melodramas, comedies, martial arts and action films, interracial buddy movies, and superhero blockbusters—on notions of race and sexual identity; and how representations of masculinity have worked in relation to or against conceptions of national identity at various historical moments. How do images of men in cinema figure into the creation and transformation of what it
means to be an “American” at different times in the nation’s history? To address these and other questions, we will read central works in cultural history and film and gender studies, and analyze films significant to our discussions. Further, examining how men appear on screen ultimately sheds light on female images–the nature of male roles helps to determine the constraints on and possibilities of female roles, as well as on how the
interrelationship between the sexes is depicted.

Readings potentially include selections from: Richard Slotkin,
Gunfighter Nation; Robert Ray, A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood
Cinema; Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, eds., Screening the Male;
Steven Cohan, Masked Men; Tania Modleski, Feminism Without Women;
Yvonne Tasker, Spectacular Bodies; Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness;
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble; Eve Sedgwick, Between Men; Richard
Dyer, Heavenly Bodies; Richard Dyer, White; Susan Jeffords,
Hardbodies; Gina Marchetti, Romance and the ‘Yellow Peril’; and essays by Robyn Wiegman, Gaylyn Studlar, Miriam Hansen, and Richard Meyer. Weekly screenings will show films that range from the silent period to the present.

Students will be expected to do a series of presentations and to write a term/research paper on a subject of their interest in gender and media studies.