"In the first comprehensive history of American manhood, E. Anthony Rotundo sweeps away the groundless assumptions and myths that inform the current fascination with men’s lives. Opposing the views of"
Although the title exaggerates the scope of his study of white, middle-class Northern men in the 19th century, Rotundo here offers a nuanced and intriguing approach to a new topic in gender history. A history teacher at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, he draws on sources including diaries, autobiographies and the work of early social scientists. At the beginning of the 19th century, he demonstrates, the concept of manhood was affected by the shift of emphasis from community to individual; by new expectations of motherhood; and by the emergence of a distinct ``boy culture.'' Current masculine identity, Rotundo contends, has its roots in standards of action and vigor that date to the late 19th century, the same period that saw the classification of men into either ``tough and strong'' or ``tender-minded.'' In an epilogue, Rotundo suggests that contemporary ideals of manhood--from the ``existential hero'' to the ``spiritual warrior''--signify a ``turning away from women'' and proposes instead that men learn to balance their individualism with a renewed sense of connection. (Apr.)