Manhood and the American Renaissance

David Leverenz, Author Cornell University Press $54.95 (372p) ISBN 978-0-8014-2281-2
A bull in the china shop of 19th century American letters, Leverenz is armed and dangerous. His weapon is psychoanalysis (laced with feminism), and his target is the middle-class definition of manhood as rugged, competitive individualism, a macho concept absorbed in varying degrees by Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and Hawthorne, according to this professor of English at the University of Florida. In this indictment, Leverenz charges that Emerson cauterized himself against emotions and trivialized women, while Hawthorne, who was obsessed with humiliation and dominance, may have been a victim of homosexual rape by an uncle with whom he shared a bed for many years. In Leverenz's deft readings, Richard Henry Dana ( Two Years Before the Mast ) and Francis Parkman Jr. ( The Oregon Trail ) emerge as wimps who used literary adventure as a means of ``manly self-fashioning.'' Irreverent, gutsy, brilliant and illuminating, this dense study will irk and enlighten. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-8014-9743-8
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