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Hypermasculinities in the Contemporary Novel

Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin · Contemporary American Literature

by Josef Benson


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Issues of race, gender, women's rights, masculinity, and sexuality continue to be debated on the national scene. These subjects have also been in the forefront of American literature, particularly in the last fifty years. One significant trend in contemporary fiction has been the failure of the heroic masculine protagonist.
In Hypermasculinities in the Contemporary Novel: Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin, Josef Benson examines key literary works of the twentieth century, notably Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses (1992), Song of Solomon (1977), and Another Country (1960). Benson argues that exaggerated masculinities originated on the American frontier and have transformed into a definition of ideal masculinity embraced by many southern rural American men. Defined by violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia, these men concocted or perpetuated myths about African Americans to justify their mistreatment and mass murder of black men after Reconstruction. As Benson illustrates, the protagonists in these texts fail to perpetuate hypermasculinities, and as a result a sense of ironic heroism emerges from the narratives.
Offering a unique and bold argument that connects the masculinities of cowboys and frontier figures with black males, Hypermasculinities in the Contemporary Novel suggests alternative possibilities for American men going forward. Scholars and students of American literature and culture, African American literature and culture, and queer and gender theory will find this book illuminating and persuasive.

Publication Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publication Date:
Contemporary American Literature


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Josef Benson (Author)

Josef Benson is assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Benson's cultural history, literary and theoretical criticism, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction have appeared in over twenty publications, including Th...

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Hypermasculinities in the Contemporary Novel
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