Masculine Identities

The History and Meanings of Manliness

by Herbert Sussman


Not all men are truly "men"—that is, people of both sexes believe that not everyone who is born biologically male reaches the ideal for men dictated by the society into which he is born. Such masculine identities or concepts of manliness have existed from the beginnings of human civilization, and they take vastly different shapes throughout history and across cultures and subcultures.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Masculine Identities

March 2012


Pages 185
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Gender

This book provides an intriguing look at the long history of the changing definitions of what it means to "be a man," identifying both the continuity and disparity in these ideals and explaining the contemporary crisis of masculinity.

In the classical Athens of Plato and Pericles, erotic relations between adolescents and adult men—what we now revile as pedophilia—was the marker of manliness; a clear example of how concepts of masculinity shift. Even within modern western society, there are conflicting ideals for men; they are expected to be both aggressive and unemotional in business, and sensitive and caring as a father and lover.

Masculine Identities: The History and Meanings of Manliness provides a comprehensive consideration of what "being a man" has meant over time. A fascinating read for men and women alike, it examines masculine identities that emerged in the past and continue into the present, such as the warrior, the democratic man, the craftsman, the self-made man of business, as well as ethnic forms of manliness. The work concludes by examining the contemporary issues of male sexuality, same-sex identity, and the conflicts within men in the modern world.


  • Shows that concepts of masculinity take varied forms, and that forms of manliness can be changed
  • Considers the continuity of different archetypes throughout history, such as the warrior, craftsman, and democratic man
  • Examines stereotypes of masculinity for ethnic groups, such as African-American and Jewish men
Author Info

Herbert Sussman is professor emeritus of English at Northeastern University, Boston, MA; and adjunct faculty member at The New School, New York, NY. He has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley. Sussman is the author of Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art; Victorian Technology: Invention, Innovation, and the Rise of the Machine; and essays on the construction of masculinity.



"Sussman (emer., English, Northeastern Univ.) provides a very clear, accessible introduction to the history of masculinity (even including a glossary) for newcomers to the subject. . . . Sussman reminds readers that multiple masculine identities exist in one person. Summing Up: Recommended."Choice

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

Women in India cover imageFive Empresses cover imageAncient Maya Gender Identity and Relations cover image
The Lion of Judah in the New World cover imageLatinos and the U.S. South cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips