Contrary to what Simone de Beauvoir famously argued in 1949, men have not lived without knowing the burdens of their sex. Though men may have been elevated to cultural positions of strength and privilege, it has not been without intense scrutiny of their biological functions. Investigations of male potency and the ‘ability to perform’ have long been mainstays of social, political, and artistic discourse and have often provoked spirited and partisan declarations on what it means to be a man. This interdisciplinary collection considers the tensions that have developed between the historical privilege often ascribed to the male and the vulnerabilities to which his body is prone. Andrew Mangham and Daniel Lea’s introduction illustrates how with the dawn of modern medicine during the Renaissance there emerged a complex set of languages for describing the male body not only as a symbol of strength, but as flesh and bone prone to illness, injury and dysfunction. Using a variety of historical and literary approaches, the essays consider the critical ways in which medicine’s interactions with literature reveal vital clues about the ways sex, gender, and identity are constructed through treatments of a range of ‘pathologies’ including deformity, venereal disease, injury, nervousness, and sexual difference. The relationships between male medicine and ideals of potency and masculinity are searchingly explored through a broad range of sources including African American slave fictions, southern gothic, early modern poetry, Victorian literature, and the Modern novel.
Andrew Mangham is Associate Professor in Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Reading, author of 'Dickens’s Forensic Realism: Truth, Bodies, Evidence' (Ohio State University Press, 2017) and 'Violent Women and Sensation Fiction: Crime, Medicine and Victorian Popular Culture' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), editor of 'The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction' (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and co-editor of 'The Female Body in Medicine and Literature' (Liverpool University Press, 2011).
Daniel Lea is Professor of Contemporary Literature at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author of 'Twenty-first Century Fiction: Contemporary British Voices' (Manchester University Press, 2016), 'Graham Swift' (Manchester University Press, 2005) and 'George Orwell: Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four' (Palgrave MacMillan, 2001); and co-editor of 'Posting the Male: Masculinities in Post-War and Contemporary Writing' (Brill, 2003).
Reviews'This volume will make an original and distinctive contribution to the fields of masculinities, gender studies, history of medicine, disabilities studies, literature, and studies of the body.'
Joanne Ella Parsons, Bath Spa University