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From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity
by Leo Braudy
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679450351, Hardcover)From Chivalry to Terrorism is a brilliant exploration of the conscious and unconscious ways in which European and American cultures have established an essential role for military and warrior virtue in defining masculinity.
Beginning with the world of honor in the chivalric Middle Ages and ending in our age of global terrorism and limited war, Leo Braudy shows how perceptions and images of masculinity have changed in relation to major wars, advances in military technology, mutations in the idea of the state and how it wages war, and shifting attitudes toward both sexuality and citizenship.
Gathering insights from history, literature, and art—as well as from facts and fantasies about male sexuality—Braudy focuses on pivotal developments such as the revolution caused by gunpowder in the fifteenth century, by the mass armies of the eighteenth century, by the fears of national degeneracy in the nineteenth century, and by weapons of mass destruction in the twentieth century. He also examines less obvious topics such as the growth of sports and gymnastics, the impact of the American West on the national and international imagination, and the efforts of the promoters of a “civilized” male identity to distinguish it from the savage barbarian on the one hand and from women and minority forms of masculinity on the other.
Finally, he makes clear that the view of a renewed warrior masculinity is at the heart of the propaganda of the Islamic terrorists, as it was for Hitler and Mussolini. War is carried on in the name of a warrior past when men were truly men. The enemy is the West, where gender is a continuum rather than the absolute set of differences between male and female that the warrior sensibility requires. The war against terrorism is thus less a literal war about territory and resources than it is a symbolic war about how men should be and behave.
In writing this unique history of masculinity, Braudy discusses both real and imagined characters. Among them are Don Quixote, Henry V, Oliver Cromwell, Don Juan, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Custer, T. E. Lawrence, Osama bin Laden, and the heroes of Stephen Crane and Ernest Hemingway.
At its heart, From Chivalry to Terrorism is about the metamorphosis of masculinity; it is a powerful and persuasive argument against the assumption that all sexual behavior is innate. Countering the sociobiological emphasis on the fixity of human nature, it stresses human changeability and responsiveness to circumstances.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:58 -0400)
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