At a time when all of America is debating the wayward course of contemporary manhood, one thing has been missing from the conversation: a source to which concerned readers might turn for guidance and inspiration, a path back to the wisdom of our shared tradition of manly virtues.
Missing, that is, until now. In What Is A Man? historian and commentator Waller R. Newell collects three thousand years of the finest and most thought-provoking writings on the subject of manhood. Introduced and placed in context by Newell's incisive and illuminating commentary, each of the eight sections in this volume addresses one aspect of the shared traditions of manliness--from wisdom to chivalry to nobility. From Aristotleon courage to Sir Thomas Malory on love, honor, and chastity; from Shakespeare on leadership to John Cheever on adolescence; from Jane Austen on pride to Theodore Roosevelt on family life--each new voice contributes perspective and authority to this maltifaceted exploration of virtue and masculinity. And the final section, "The Invisible Man," reflects the confusions of modern manhood, addressing issues of violence, media imagery, and the role of the counterculture through commentators as diverse as James Dean, David Foster Wallace, and Kurt Cobain.
An anthology of extraordinary scope and depth, What Is A Man? reminds us all of the relevance of the manly tradition and offers a blueprint for men (and women) eager to uphold the honor of our forefathers' legacy.
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What is a man? Good question. According to Waller Newell, a professor of philosophy and political science and a contributor to The Weekly Standard, the last few generations have been "a bad dream" during which the answer to that question has been obscured. Modern representations of manhood as diverse as Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club and David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men are cited as proving his point.
Organizing excerpts from a variety of Western literary sources into eight broad sections--the Chivalrous Man, the Gentleman, the Wise Man, the Family Man, the Statesman, the Noble Man, the American Man, and the Invisible Man--Newell traces what he sees as "an unbroken pedigree in the Western conception of what it means to be a man." What Is a Man? promises to "inspire men and boys to reach for the seemingly lost ideals of honor, heroism and integrity," by providing "a source to which concerned readers could turn for guidance and inspiration, a path back to the wisdom of our shared traditions of manly virtue." This approach will work particularly well if your opinions are closely aligned with Newell's; the inclusions reflect his affection for the traditional conception of the masculine demonstrated by the likes of Sir Thomas Malory and Thomas Bulfinch. But even if your masculine ideal differs, the book still makes for a fascinating compendium. And the omissions are as interesting as the inclusions (definitely no Oscar Wilde, but no Norman Mailer and so little Ernest Hemingway?).
Newell sees the lost hero in all of today's apparently baffled and frustrated men (he even refers to a squeegee guy with a Mohawk as a "road warrior Achilles"). His response to this collective confusion is this book of virtues--a kind of literary companion to Susan Faludi's Stiffed--which he hopes will be not only interesting but instructive as well. --J.R.About the Author:
Waller R. Newell is professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He was educated at the University of Toronto and Yale University. The author of numerous books and articles on Classical, Renaissance, and Modern European political philosophy and literature, he is a contributor to the Weekly Standard and other publications. He has been a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and the National Humanities Center in Research Triangel Park, North Carolina, and a John Adams Fellow at the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London.
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