Masculinity and fantasy in postwar American literature
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This dissertation examines formations of masculinity in American literature written in the decades after World War II. In particular, I consider Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar (1948), John Rechy's Numbers (1963), and Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967). I analyze these texts from a psychoanalytic perspective in order to argue that a scene of unconscious fantasy organizes masculinity during the postwar period. This dissertation argues that the psychoanalytic categories of fantasy and the unconscious are crucial for interpreting masculinity in American literature. Resisting the imperatives of historicism, I conceptualize masculinity as primarily a psychic relationship between men, a perspective that is especially advantageous for examining the relationship between masculinity, homosexuality, and homosexual anxiety beyond the manifest discourses of the 1950s and 60s. This argument then serves to reposition the study of masculinity in American literature by constructing masculinity not only as a political discourse or a set of bodily practices, but also as a structure of desire through which it can be transformed and reimagined.