From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity

Leo Braudy, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-679-45035-1
This superlative work of cultural history eloquently addresses an age-old crisis of masculinity: should a man be""an individual of prowess in personal combat, or a largely anonymous weapons-wielder in ranks, slaying from a distance?"" In 57 literate essays, USC professor Braudy ranges from the Homeric Age to September 11th, revealing an arc of ideas that show how our notions of""man"" and""warrior"" have long been related. In the course of recording Western confusions about the way men should behave in war, Braudy takes stock of Achilles, Odysseus, Don Quixote, Restoration English poetry on premature ejaculation, General Custer, T. E. Lawrence and many, many other actual and fictional figures. The book's focus narrows somewhat after WWI. The Vietnam War, Braudy writes, may have been the last""literary war,"" and the antiwar movement against it showed that""without war, the absolute difference between male and female may collapse under its own weight, deprived of a crucial support."" A final chapter on""Terrorism as a Gender War"" argues that in today's world""the soldier is no longer a member of an actual army but of, at most, a small group, prepared carefully by his recruiters for certain death."" Braudy, whose study of fame, The Frenzy of Renown, was a finalist for the NBCC Award in 1987, neglects one current aspect of the debate--women in the military--but he manages the Herculean task of collating textual data and interpretations in jargon-free prose, accompanying his observations with dry wit and a superior selection of illustrations. His book is an important contribution to the library of military history as well as to the growing field of gender studies.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Paperback - 613 pages - 978-0-679-76830-2
Open Ebook - 494 pages - 978-0-307-77341-8
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