Northern Illinois University Press

The Male Body at War

American Masculinity during World War II

Christina S. Jarvis

"A very important work, one of the first books to examine how the efforts of state and military officials during the Second World War reconfigured constructions of American masculinity."—Leisa D. Meyer, College of William and Mary

"A fascinating, detailed analysis of military masculinity, and how it enabled male heroism to dominate America even in the face of war wounds and death."—Suzanne Clark, University of Oregon

"An interesting and useful look at gender, nationalism, and the soldier."—Canadian Journal of History

Muscular, fearless, youthful, athletic—the World War II soldier embodied masculine ideals and represented the manhood of the United States. In The Male Body at War, Christina Jarvis examines the creation of this national symbol, from military recruitment posters to Hollywood war films to the iconic flag-raisers at Iwo Jima. A poignant selection of illustrations brings together comics, advertisements, media images, and government propaganda intended to impress U.S. citizens and foreign nations with America's strength.

Jarvis recognizes, however, that the male body was more than a mere symbol. During the war, the nation literally invested its survival in the corps of servicemen, and the armed forces set about crafting them into soldiers. Drawing upon medical journals, War Department documents, and government health reports, Jarvis scrutinizes the ways in which physical inspections defined male bodies by fitness and race while training molded those bodies for action. At the same time, she gives servicemen a voice through war memoirs and a survey of over 130 veterans. Her searching analysis reveals not only how the men mediated popular culture and military regimen to forge an understanding of their own masculinity but how, in the face of dead and wounded comrades, they tempered such body-centered ideals with an emphasis on compassion and tenderness.

Theoretically sophisticated and methodologically innovative, The Male Body at War makes a major contribution to the literature on the body as a cultural construction. With its compelling narrative and engaging style, it will appeal to a broad range of readers with interests in gender studies as well as to students of American history and culture.

(2003) 266 pp., notes, bibliography, index
ISBN: 978-0-87580-322-7
cloth $42.00

Christina S. Jarvis is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the American Studies program at SUNY, Fredonia.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Abbreviations
1. Building the Body Politic: From the Depression to World War II
2. Classified Bodies: Screening, Sculpting, and Sexualizing Servicemen
3. Representing Wounded Bodies: Personal, Popular, and Medical Narratives
4. "White Man's War?": Race and Masculinity in World War II
5. (Re)Membering the Dead: From the Battlefield to the Home Front
Appendix: World War II Veterans Survey
Selected Bibliography

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-322-7
cloth $42.00