Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics

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9780226137407: Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics
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Guys Like Us considers how writers of the 1950s and '60s struggled to craft literature that countered the politics of consensus and anticommunist hysteria in America, and how notions of masculinity figured in their effort. Michael Davidson examines a wide range of postwar literature, from the fiction of Jack Kerouac to the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank O'Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath. He also explores the connection between masculinity and sexuality in films such as Chinatown and The Lady from Shanghai, as well as television shows, plays, and magazines from the period. What results is a virtuoso work that looks at American poetic and artistic innovation through the revealing lenses of gender and history.

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About the Author:

Michael Davidson is a professor of American literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author, most recently, ofGhostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word and editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen. Davidson is also the author of eight books of poetry, includingThe Arcades and Post Hoc.

Review:

Named "Outstanding Academic Title" by Choice
(Choice)

"Evoking Baudelaire's flaneur in his analysis of Whitman and O'Hara, Davidson becomes something of a flaneur himself, strolling through the bustling, vibrant excesses of twentieth-century cultural production, and sampling with astonishing grace, facility, and acumen the wealth of significations around that central sign, masculinity, in a way that . . . is always richly challenging and frequently illuminating. His degree of cultural literacy is astonishing. . . . A thought-provoking work that sreaks to a variety of disciplines: American history, literary criticism, and gender studies."

(Fiona Paton American Quarterly)

"[Guys Like Us] advance[s] the historical study of poetics and poetry significantly."

(Eric Schocket American Literature)

Guys Like Us seeks to re-assess the historiography of the policing of gender roles and its relation to foreign state affairs during the Cold War era in the United States. . . . Davidson’s text is innovative in that it analyses the role of postwar countercultural poetry and its adjacent literary criticism in the construction of alternative models of masculinity. . . . [Davidson] privileges the poetic genre because he considers it the ideal site to contest ideologies through literature. Consequently, the author explains that the careful reading of poems produced during the Cold War era provides an accurately complex picture of postwar America—a picture which has become blurred by the convenient forgetfulness resulting from a manichean defense of so-called “moral” and, by extension, “democratic” values from the late 1940s to the late 1960s.”

(Mercedes Cuenca Cercles)

“Davidson’s queer readings of major American poets of the 1950s and ’60s sheds new light on the complexities of cold war culture and in the process transforms our understanding of both normative and nonnormative masculinities. Original, provocative, and theoretically astute, Guys Like Us makes an important contribution to both American and queer studies.”< (Robert J. Corber, Trinity College)

Guys Like Us will force us to rethink the poetics of the 1950s in strenuous new ways. Davidson takes a diverse body of poems and literary works and shows how they all bear the stamp of the postwar era, from the idea of a perfect masculinity to America’s manifest destiny. This is a highly original, fascinating book.” (Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University)

“Davidson shows us persuasively just how homosocial bonding served to shape much of the American poetry of the cold war era. His book is as fine and subtle and learned an account of the relations among gender, genre, and politics as any I know.” (Henry Abelove, Wesleyan University)

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