Pinks, Pansies, and Punks

Pinks, Pansies, and Punks

The Rhetoric of Masculinity in American Literary Culture
James Penner
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/23/2010
Format: Paperback 11 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22251-0
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Pinks, Pansies, and Punks charts the construction of masculinity within American literary culture from the 1930s to the 1970s. Penner documents the emergence of "macho criticism," and explores how debates about "hard" and "soft" masculinity influenced the class struggles of the 1930s, anti-communism in the 1940s and 1950s, and the clash between the Old Left and the New Left in the 1960s. By extending literary culture to include not just novels, plays, and poetry, but diaries, journals, manifestos, screenplays, and essays on psychology and sociology, Penner unveils the multiplicity of gender attitudes that emerge in each of the decades he addresses.

Author Bio

James Penner is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico.


“Charts the construction of masculinity, extending it to include diaries, journals, manifestos, essays, literary criticism, journalism, non-fiction, essays on psychology and sociology, and screenplays.”

“James Penner takes readers on a thrilling—and, at times, unnerving—grand tour of mid 20th-century masculinities, documenting the never-ending struggle between the hard, macho man and the soft, sensitive, artistic soul. Careening between Alfred Kinsey and Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams and Eldridge Cleaver, Penner surveys an extraordinary range of novels, films, plays, and criticism to demonstrate how deeply entrenched these opposing mythologies are in American culture.”
 — David Savran, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

“James Penner's book is an elegant and entertaining walk through the urban jungle of U.S. literary culture since the 1930s. It casts new light on famous texts, and reveals the multiple forms of textual masculinity, the pervasiveness of gender, and the paradoxical connections between hard and soft masculinities in U.S. public culture. A pleasure to read, this is a valuable contribution to both literary studies and gender analysis.”
 — Raewyn Connell, author of Masculinities

“Through exhaustive research and witty prose, Penner reveals that the stakes of modern American literary culture too often relied upon what could—and could not—count for an authentically masculine critique.”
 — Scott Herring, Indiana University Bloomington

“Exhaustively researched and meticulously detailed, James Penner's [book] cuts an insightful swath through fifty years of 20th century macho literary criticism . . . Scholars, historians, and culture critics will have much to chew on here. May 2011”
 — Reno Tahoe Tonight

“With a literary fluid style and a pleasant wit, Penner steers the reader through five decades of fluctuating visions of masculinity, not only in novels and criticism, but also in various artistic endeavors and in 'cultured society' as a whole. ...[A]n invaluable book.8/22/11”

“A nice addition to the steadily lengthening shelf of literary gender studies, this perceptive, well-researched volume ... surveys a vast landscape of eclectic literary achievement: from hypermasculine warrior myths, anticommunist crusades, and the New Critics to Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and William S. Burroughs ... [this] study merits a long look. Summing Up: Highly recommendedJuly 2011”
 — Choice

“Pinks, Pansies, and Punks offers an indispensable text that compellingly theorizes the significance of masculinity's role in literary culture and the twentieth-century social contexts that shaped—and were shaped by—it.”
 — Twentieth Century Literature

“All in all it [Pinks, Pansies, and Punks] is a recommendable, as informative introduction to the American culture and Gendergeschichte [gender studies] of the middle twentieth century.”
 — Orbis Litterarum

“Penner's study is an ambitious and provocative look at mid-century delineations of masculinity in American literary culture. . . . [It] asks readers to reconsider and expand the horizons of their understanding of twentieth-century male identity, and to reflect on their critical efforts to fit writers, artists, and other critics into specific categories and definitions. In many ways, this is what makes it such a rich and potentially valuable a contribution not only to masculinity and gender studies, but to American literary and cultural studies as well.”
 — College Literature

“In compelling ways, Penner navigates through layered textual materials to show how multiple configurations of masculinity can and do co-exist . . . This book proves a very interesting study for those interested in Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, or Literary Criticism. Vol. 40:6”
 — Women's Studies

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Short History of Macho Criticism
1. "Healthy Nerves and Sturdy Physiques": Remaking the Male Body of Literary Culture in the 1930s
2. Doughfaces, Eggheads, and Softies: Gendered Epithets and American Literary Culture in the 1940s
3. Highbrows and Lowbrows: Squares, Beats, Hipsters, White Negroes, New Critics, and American Literary Culture in the 1950s
4. Reforming the Hard Body: The Old Left, the Counterculture, and the Masculine Kulturkampf of the 1960s
5. The Gender Upheavals of the Late 1960s and Early 1970s: The Black Panthers, Gay Liberation, and Radical Feminism
Epilogue: The End of Innuendo

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