Communication and Culture | Seminar in Media Studies
C793 | 1178 | Klinger


Since the late 1980s, media studies has become increasingly interested
in how masculinity is represented on screen. Before this recent
interest, critics assumed that depictions of masculinity in film were
fairly uniform; that what we saw repeatedly was the so-called American
masculine ideal--the square-jawed, macho, rugged individualist who
could right all wrongs with his fists or a gun. But upon closer
inspection, critics have recognized that while this type certainly
exists, there are significant contradictions and crises in its
representations, as well as far greater diversity and complexity in
male images in the cinema than previously suspected. Further, more
complex notions of how men appear on screen ultimately help us better
understand female images; the nature of male roles helps determine the
constraints on and possibilities of female roles, as well as how the
interrelationship between the sexes will be depicted.

In this course we will begin by examining the social and historical
basis of the masculine ideal--the Western cowboy-hero--sketching his
evolution as an important figure in U.S. cinema. We will then study
many other masculine types that depart from this model, considering
how ethnicity, race, homosexuality, and other kinds of "difference"
have figured into male portrayals. As we explore these depictions, we
will also discuss how star images affect the audience's perception of
masculinity. The films we watch over the course of the semester will
feature stars from the earliest days of cinema such as Rudolph
Valentino to more contemporary figures such as Mel Gibson. Throughout
the class, we will consider 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 this key mass
medium figure into the creation and transformation of what it means to
be an "American" at different times in the nation's history?

Assignments will include a class presentation and a research paper.

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; Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity in the Cinema; Gina
Marchetti, Romance and the ‘Yellow Peril'; and essays by Robyn Wiegman
Miriam Hansen, and Richard Meyer.