The Male Body and Masculinity

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Monika Pietrzak-Franger

The Male Body and Masculinity. Representations of Men in British Visual Culture of the 1990s

ISBN 978-3-88476-906-5, 288 S., kt., € 29,00 (2007)

(MUSE - Mainz University Studies in English, Bd. 12)

As male subjectivity and gender identity in general have customarily been regarded as created on the basis of exclusion, any kind of discontinuity, permeability and even weakening of body boundaries has been perceived as a destabilisation of the traditional notion of masculinity. Although such a tendency can be regarded as generally subversive to the perception and construction of masculinities, its subversive character is only potential. Not every trespassing, penetration or erasure of boundaries indicates a radical change in the perception of the body which is thus created. In turn, the re-inscription of boundaries does not necessarily signify a fundamental adjustment in the theorisation of corporeal gender identity. This study determines to what end British male artists used bodily boundaries and the binaries which were associated with them in the 1990s. It considers three significant tendencies in the depiction of the male body: the maintenance of bodily boundaries, the erasure of traditional binaries often directly related to the erasure of bodily boundaries and, finally, the penetration of the bodily structure. It enquires whether these tendencies have resulted in an altered model of male subjectivity or whether, despite the innovative treatment of bodily outlines, the artists have sustained the traditional perception of male identity as based on opposition.
Due to the multimedial context of the 1990s, male identity is discussed in relation to films, e.g. Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book, John Maybury’s Love is the Devil; dance and theatre, e.g. DV8’s Enter Achilles, Mark Ravenhill’s Faust is Dead; performance and art, e.g. the works of Douglas Gordon, Marc Queen, Franko B and Isaac Julien.


"Monika Pietrzak-Franger’s study The Male Body and Masculinity is an impressive, theoretically informed and densely printed analysis devoted to the 'novel pre-occupation with the body in the 1990s'."

Stefan Horlacher, Anglia Journal of English Philology 127.2 (2010)

"Aus einer distanzierten Perspektive auf die letzte Dekade des 20. Jahrhunderts heraus ist es Pietrzak-Franger gut gelungen, die Ausprägungen eines differenzierten Umgangs mit dem männlichen Körper seitens britischer Künstler der 90er Jahre darzustellen. Auch wenn die Resultate dieser künstlerischen Auseinandersetzung nur marginale Veränderungen bezüglich Darstellung und Wahrnehmung des männlichen Körpers nach sich ziehen, ist die informative und konzise Studie Pietrzak-Frangers ein gelungenes Beispiel für eine Dissertation, die unterschiedliche Denkansätze zu einem soliden theoretischen Unterbau zusammenfügt."

Claudia Lainka, MEDIENwissenschaft 25.1 (2008)

"Pietrzak-Franger’s book convinces not only in terms of its lucid structure and style but also with its presentation of an interesting and varied assortment of art works which it manages to analyse conclusively in terms of the theoretical framework it establishes."

Claudia Eilers, Anglistik – International Journal of English Studies 19.1 (2008)