Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War

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9780226067469: Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War

Some historians contend that femininity was "disrupted, constructed and reconstructed" during World War I, but what happened to masculinity? Using the evidence of letters, diaries, and oral histories of members of the military and of civilians, as well as contemporary photographs and government propoganda, Dismembering the Male explores the impact of the First World War on the male body.

Each chapter explores a different facet of the war and masculinity in depth. Joanna Bourke discovers that those who were dismembered and disabled by the war were not viewed as passive or weak, like their civilian counterparts, but were the focus of much government and public sentiment. Those suffering from disease were viewed differently, often finding themselves accused of malingering.

Joanna Bourke argues convincingly that military experiences led to a greater sharing of gender identities between men of different classes and ages. Dismembering the Male concludes that ultimately, attempts to reconstruct a new type of masculinity failed as the threat of another war, and with it the sacrifice of a new generation of men, intensified.

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From the Back Cover:

Some historians contend that femininity was "disrupted, constructed, and reconstructed" during World War I, but what happened to masculinity? Using evidence of letters, diaries and oral histories of members of the military and of civilians, Dismembering the Male explores the impact of the First World War on the male body. Each chapter explores a different facet of the war and masculinity in depth. Joanna Bourke concludes that those who were dismembered and disabled by the war were not viewed as passive or weak, like their civilian counterparts, but were the focus of much government and public sentiment. Those suffering from disease were viewed differently, often finding themselves accused of malingering. Dismembering the Male also examines the way in which the war affected men socially. The absence of women encouraged male intimacy, but differences of class, regiment, religion, and ethnicity acted as barriers between men and the trauma of war and the constant threat of death did not encourage closeness. Attitudes to the dead male body, which during the war became the property of the state, are also explored. Joanna Bourke argues convincingly that military experiences led to a greater sharing of gender identities between men of different classes and ages. Post-war debates on what constitutes masculinity were fueled by the actions of men's movements. Dismembering the Male concludes that ultimately, attempts to reconstruct a new type of masculinity failed as the threat of another war, and with it the sacrifice of a new generation of men, intensified.

About the Author:

Joanna Bourke is professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, and Global Innovations Chair at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is the author of many books including An Intimate History of Killing, Fear: A Cultural History, The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers, and Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play are Invading our Lives.

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Joanna Bourke
Editorial: University of Chicago Press (1996)
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