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Hollow Men: Subordinate Masculinities in Contemporary American Drama

Williams, Grant (2013) Hollow Men: Subordinate Masculinities in Contemporary American Drama. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the past half century, masculinity has been consistently seen as in crisis, undergoing a diminishment of its authority. At the same time, however, the overall power structure, one that consistently favors white men, has only changed in seemingly minor ways. There exists, then, a disparity between representations of masculinity in popular culture and the way in which authority is maintained. This study focuses on the connection between representations of masculinity in the larger culture and how these ideas influence the reception of five important canonical Broadway productions. Employing R.W. Connell’s concept of subordinate masculinities, these plays and the struggle of subordinate white male types they stage are analyzed to understand the ways in which they reify a masculine hegemony. The study begins in the anxious economic postwar world with Arthur Miller’s 1949 Death of a Salesman before moving into the culture of affluence as demonstrated with Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Analyzing the tumultuous decades of the ‘60s and ‘70s is David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, which although it centers around Vietnam, speaks volumes about an ever-growing isolation and narcissism pervading masculine representations. David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and the Dustin Hoffman-led revival of Salesman take Reaganism to task before a final twentieth century revival of Salesman shifts to a growing introspection among American men. The final chapter looks to Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County a play that has decentered the male into obsolescence and what that says about the status of men in the 21st century. By examining popular culture, assessing how masculinity was portrayed in film, the popular fiction, music, the presidents, those iconic individuals that left a mark on society, this study contextualizes how certain time periods have portrayed men and how theatrical representations reflect or quarrel with those images. The final assessment of masculinity questions whether masculinity is simply founded on the notion of crisis, and suggests that instability is at the core of the identity of white American males. Ultimately this study takes steps to analyze major male characters of American drama as gender-constructed individuals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGeorge, Kathleengeorgeke@pitt.eduGEORGEKE
Committee MemberFavorini, Attiliobucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberEiss,
Date: 2 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 February 2013
Approval Date: 2 July 2013
Submission Date: 8 March 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 262
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: theatre, gender studies, masculinity
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2013 16:37
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 05:15


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