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Manliness in Britain, 1760-1900Bodies, Emotion, and Material Culture$
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Joanne Begiato

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526128577

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526128584

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Figures, faces, and desire: male bodies and manliness

Figures, faces, and desire: male bodies and manliness

(p.34) 1 Figures, faces, and desire: male bodies and manliness
Manliness in Britain, 1760-1900

Joanne Begiato

Manchester University Press

This chapter reveals how manliness was conveyed through beautiful, virile, male bodies. Such appealing male figures and faces were associated with positive emotions that were coded as both manly and moral. This chapter explores their changing forms over time, shaped by modernity, sport, anthropometry and physiognomy, but also addresses the role of male beauty in disseminating ideals of manliness. It takes a queer history approach which deliberately makes strange the conjunction between physical beauty and masculine values. It rejects assumptions about normative masculinities and how they were created and circulated and instead adopts the techniques of scholarship that queers sexual constructions. Overall, it proposes that beautiful male forms and appearances were intended to arouse desire for the gender that these bodies bore. This nuances our understanding of the gaze. It shows that the idealised manly body was active, since it was an agent of prized gender values. Yet, it was also passive, as the erotic object of a female and male desirous gaze, and subordinate, for although some of the descriptions of idealised male bodies in this chapter were elite, many manly and unmanly bodies were those of white working-class men. (191 words)

Keywords:   Manliness, Bodies, Emotions, Gaze, Desire, Working-class men, Beauty, Modernity, Physiognomy, Sport

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