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“Manly Men”: Representations of Masculinity in Don DeLillo's Fiction


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Popović, Ana. (2016). “Manly Men”: Representations of Masculinity in Don DeLillo's Fiction. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Grgas, Stipe and Šesnić, Jelena].

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Even though Don DeLillo's novels are rarely a subject of a scholarly analysis concerning the representation of gender, his fiction is crowded with representations of manhood which correspond to the postmodern construction of gender. American national manhood has experienced postmodernism as a shift towards a representational form characterized by looser boundaries, and determined by almost an awareness of its own constructive and artificial nature. This paper studies DeLillo's novels in the light of performative masculinity, an aspect of his novels often pushed aside for the sake of exploring “bigger” themes, but one that, when studied more closely, becomes one of the prevailing subjects of his social and cultural critique. In this paper, I analyze the representations of American masculinity in three of DeLillo's novels: White Noise, Cosmopolis and Falling Man. In White Noise, Jack Gladney, a college professor, performs his carefully constructed role as an esteemed intellectual, only to hide his insecurities as a man. Eric Packer, the protagonist of Cosmopolis, also engages in stereotypical and highly performative behavior, in his case suited to the normative masculinity of the corporate world. Finally, Keith Neudecker in Falling Man represents the American man in the aftermath of 9/11 as a fragile cultural construction brought down by the emasculation of a nation through terrorist attacks. In all three of the novels, the manhood of the protagonists is brought into question when they are no longer able to live up to the impossible standards posed before them as men. In such situations, aggression and destruction seem to be the easiest means of returning to a primal, hypermasculine state in order to overcome the feelings of inadequacy. In his novels, DeLillo proves the notion of normative masculinity to be no more than a fragile and insecure cultural construction, constructed upon stereotypes which no man could ever live up to. The image of manhood perpetuated by the media creates insecurities in individual men that lead to destruction and self-destruction. Still, his critique of the mediated stereotype of manhood offers no solution to individual men, as the only resort the protagonists of his novels can find is a return to even more traditional and normative models of masculinity

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Don DeLillo, masculinity, performativity, national manhood
Subjects: English language and literature > American Studies
English language and literature
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Grgas, Stipe and Šesnić, Jelena
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2016 10:49
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2016 10:49

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