Course ➤ Masculinity and Politics

On October 30, 2016 by Josh Vandiver


Masculinity and PoliticsWhat is masculinity? How does it relate to men and the male body? Why are debates about masculinity in our culture so fiercely partisan and hyper-political? Motivated by such questions, this course investigates how the concept of masculinity has been, and continues to be, shaped by struggles over political power. We have three primary aims. First, to learn how influential political thinkers—especially Plato, Machiavelli, and Foucault—thought about masculinity and politics in relation to ancient Greece, Rome, and the modern world. Second, to analyze through the lens of masculinity several case studies of statesmen, citizens, and political issues in times of crisis and change—ranging from the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus, to American soldiers in Vietnam, to contemporary debates over pornography and censorship. Third, to develop proficiency working with key theories and analytical tools used in the political study of men and masculinity today.





Plutarch and Xenophon—On Sparta (Penguin)

Niccolò Machiavelli—The Prince (Chicago)

Niccolò Machiavelli—The Discourses on Livy (Chicago)

Michel Foucault—The Foucault Reader (Vintage)

Friedrich Nietzsche—On the Genealogy of Morality (Hackett)

Linda Williams—Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’ (California)

Anthony Easthope—What a Man’s Gotta Do: The Masculine Myth in Popular Culture (Routledge)

David Buchbinder—Studying Men and Masculinities (Routledge)

Alain Corbin, ed.—A History of Virility (Columbia)

Joyce F. Beneneson—Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes (Oxford)



Plato—Laches (On Courage) and Charmides (On Moderation) (Hackett)

Luce Irigaray—Speculum, Of the Other: Woman

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari—A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Brent Adkins—Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: A Critical Introduction and Guide

Myles McDonnell—Roman Manliness: Virtus and the Roman Republic

Terrell Carver—Men in Political Theory

Todd Reeser—Masculinities in Theory




Week 1 – Masculinity and Antiquity, I: Crisis

  • Xenophon and Plutarch – On Sparta
  • Zach Snyder, dir. – 300 (2006)
  • Easthope – Masculine Myth, Introduction and Part III: ‘Masculinity in Action’
  • Buchbinder – Studying Men and Masculinities, ch. 6: ‘(Em)Bodying Masculinity’

Week 2 – Masculinity and Antiquity, II: Patriarchy

  • Plato – Republic, I-II
  • Corbin, ed – History of Virility, ch. 1: ‘Greek Virilities’
  • Easthope – Masculine Myth, Part I: ‘Basic Masculinity’
  • Buchbinder – Studying Men and Masculinities, ch. 4: ‘Regarding Patriarchy’

Week 3 – Masculinity and Antiquity, III: Citizenship

  • Plato – Republic, III-IV
  • David Fincher, dir. – Fight Club (1999)
  • Easthope – Masculine Myth, Part II: ‘The Masculine Ego’
  • Buchbinder – Studying Men and Masculinities, ch. 1: ‘The End of Masculinity?’ and ch. 2: ‘Thinking (Through) Gender’

Week 4 – Masculinity and Antiquity, IV: War 

  • Plato – Republic, V-VII
  • Luce Irigaray – Speculum, ‘Plato’s Hystera,’ 243-268
  • Buchbinder – Studying Men and Masculinities, ch. 3: ‘Doing/Undoing Gender’ and ch. 5: ‘Troubling Patriarchy’

Week 5 – Masculinity and Antiquity, V: Tyranny

  • Plato – Republic, VIII-IX
  • Easthope – Masculine Myth, Part V: Masculine/Feminine

Week 6 – Masculinity and Machiavelli

  • Machiavelli – The Prince
  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 4: ‘Absolute Virility in the Early Modern World,’ 114-145

Week 7 – Masculinity and Modernity, I: Sex

  • Foucault – History of Sexuality, Part I: ‘We “Other Victorians”‘ and Part II: ‘The Repressive Hypothesis’
  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 9: ‘The Necessary Manifestation of Sexual Energy’ and ch. 12: ‘The Burden of Virility’
  • Williams – Hard Core, ch. 1: ‘Speaking Sex: “The Indiscreet Jewels”‘

Week 8 – Masculinity and Modernity, II: Citizenship

  • Foucault – History of Sexuality, Part III: ‘Scientia Sexualis’
  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 7: ‘The Code of Virility: Inculcation’ and ch. 14: ‘Origins and Transformations of Male Domination’
  • Williams – Hard Core, ch. 2: ‘Prehistory: The “Frenzy of the Visible”‘ and ch. 3: ‘The Stag Film: Genital Show and Genital Event’
  • Francis Ford Coppola, dir. – Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)

Week 9 – Masculinity and Modernity, III: Recognition

  • Foucault – History of Sexuality, Part IV: ‘The Deployment of Sexuality’
  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 8: ‘The Duel and the Defense of Virile Honor’ and ch. 17: ‘”One is Not Born Virile, One Becomes So”‘
  • Williams – Hard Core, ch. 4: ‘Fetishism and Hard Core: Marx, Freud, and the “Money Shot”‘ and ch. 5: ‘Generic Pleasures: Number and Narrative’

Week 10 – Masculinity and Modernity, IV: Violence

  • Foucault – History of Sexuality, Part V: ‘Right of Death and Power over Life’
  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 10: ‘Military Virility,’ and ch. 15: ‘Virilities on Edge, Violent Virilities’
  • Williams – Hard Core, ch. 6: ‘Hard-Core Utopias: Problems and Solutions’ and ch. 7: ‘Power, Pleasure, and Perversion: Sadomasochistic Film Pornography’

Week 11 – Masculinity and Modernity, V: Empire

  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 5: ‘The Virile Man and the Savage in the Lands of Exploration,’ ch. 11: Virility in the Colonial Context,’ and ch. 18: ‘Fascist Virility’
  • Susan Sontag – ‘Fascinating Fascism’
  • Leni Riefenstahl, dir. – Triumph of the Will (1935)

Week 12 – Conclusion

  • Corbin, ed. – History of Virility, ch. 16: ‘Virility Through the Looking Glass of Women,’ ch. 20: Homosexual Transformations,’ and ch. 21: ‘Exhibitions’
  • Williams – Hard Core, ch. 8: ‘Sequels and Re-Visions: “A Desire of One’s Own”,’ Conclusion, Epilogue
  • Buchbinder – Studying Men and Masculinities, ch. 7: ‘Postapocalyptic Masculinities’