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Warren Farrell. Ross Firestone (New York. ed. N. The leading magazine of the movement is Brother.' " Critical Inquiry 2 (Autumn 1975): 78. the 'masculine mode. and it is similar to that which saw the rise of women's studies about ten years ago. to delineate its counterpart. published in Berkeley.' then we are honor-bound. As a men's movement begins to evolve. magazines and newsletters proliferate.J. and she argues convincingly for the value of such investigations. Marc Fasteau. then. To suggest a similar assessment of writing by men is to remind us that the rich variety of writing by either sex resists any attempt at limiting its nature by sexual characteristics alone. The LiberatedMan (New York.65 621 . Joseph Pleck and Jack Sawyer (Englewood Cliffs.The Masculine Mode Peter Schwenger "If we insist on discovering something we can clearly label as a 'feminine mode.2 Like the wom1. ed. 1976). are recurrently found in it. A Book of Men. David and Robert Brannon (Reading. shouldn't there be a similar value in investigating the possible nature of a masculine mode? With us already is the social context out of which such an investigation would naturally arise. an increasing number of books are being published which analyze the nature of masculinity. 2. 0093-1896/79/0504-0003$01. and Men and Masculinity. Kolodny investigates certain traits of perception and style which. Yet in the remainder of her essay. Deborah S. Mass. "Some Notes on Defining a 'Feminist Literary Criticism.' " This statement by Annette Kolodny does not affirm that such a counterpart exists.' Kolodny instead is making a point about the difficulty of determining common traits of writing by women.. C 1979 bn The L n\ ersit (• Chicago. ed.. Why. conferences are organized. The Male Machine (New York. Annette Kolodny. Recently published books on the subject include the following: The Forty-ninePercent Majority. 1976). 1974). 1974). 1974). if not definitive of writing by women. also.
may not even be recognized. it is not fruitful for the work of every male author. or simply ignore their male sexuality. We know that an author may neutralize himself so that he becomes. though artificial.622 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode en's movement. A writer's sexuality may underlie his work. it contains insights which. in Joyce's words. until named. paring his fingernails. It cannot be stressed too often that if these studies accept the literary nature of the works with which they deal." Or the author may be protean. adopting masculine and feminine modes according to the characters whose vision he adopts. The danger here is that books may be viewed merely as casebooks. . assistant professor of English at Mount St. it must necessarily address itself to the subtler psychological dynamics of the male role. which examines the relation between masculinity and literary style. we should take into account their tendencies to work against the sexual grain. rather than neutralize. Phallic Critiques. may be the common property of millions. It is here that literature. with writers of both sexes. misunderstanding and ridicule from without. Yet even if this is the most fruitful approach to the study of a masculine mode in literature. "invisible. indifferent. Using sexual generalities to link one writer with another reduces each to a low common denominator indeed. for several reasons. the men's movement is prone to dissension from within. The most obvious point of difference is that the men's movement lacks the concrete rallying point of economic discrimination. though unsystematized. is currently completing a book. Such an author gives free play to what both Virginia Woolf and Coleridge called the "androgynous mind. it provides words for perceptions which. in ways that may not be generally recognized) and words. perhaps. It is better to limit the mode to writers who. but it may underlie it at such a basic level as to illuminate nothing about the work's uniqueness and special richness. contradict. which provided both its model and its initial impetus." If there is a masculine mode. it is clear that it is not simply made up of all male writers. is not likely to parallel that of the women's movement simply because the masculine role which it scrutinizes has configurations which are peculiar to itself. however. refined out of existence. Its course. are still valid. then. they must concern themselves with the relation between perceptions (sexual. is liable to be called upon: literature provides experiences which. Peter Schwenger. a happy hunting ground for Men We Disapprove Of and Good Guys. In this way we may consider with more certainty and subtlety the relation of this conscious preoccupation and the words used to describe it. take it as their explicit subject. Again. Vincent University in Halifax.
or any of the infinite variations of physical type. To oneself. Everything he perceives and thinks depends upon his bodily state. one's own body is wholly neither object nor subject. that these writers only question the received images of maleness. as with most other aspects of the body. in literature or outside of it. New York. Their explorations of maleness are not abstract but intensely individual. to deny its vulnerability as an object in the world.Critical Inquiry Summer 1979 623 Is there really such a thing as a masculine style of writing? What are its characteristics and why just these characteristics? Can we distinguish the masculine style from the explicit masculine content? The writers I will examine in this context are necessarily a selection from the number of those who might be included. I do not mean to suggest. it is even more true in literature. as an object. I am not saying biology is destiny but rather. Always knowledge is rooted in experience and inseparable from it. as Woolf suggests in A Room of One's Own. for Woolf. . 1963). at a primary level. But this perception is only partial and momentary. emaciation. p."3 At any rate there seems to be little explicit questioning of the male role. is an instance of the body intensely asserting its power over human perception-a power which is always there but largely disregarded by writers. until our own century. the effect of this underlying fact may be rendered transparent. the underlying fact of one's sexuality must affect the perception not only of oneself but of the world. Perhaps."4 More than obesity. They are not straightforward but riddled with contradictions and paradoxes. A Room of One's Own (1928. it is because of the beginnings of the women's movement in the preceding century that "virility has now become self-conscious. Ultimately all the 3. in James Dickey's words. 4. as the phenomenologists have pointed out. If this is true in life. Virginia Woolf. it is difficult to extract didactic points from their works. Still more difficult is the attempt to view the body as completely subjective. one's body may be objectified: I may inspect my hand in the same disinterested way that I observe the grain of the table on which it lies. as Woolf asserts in her essay "On Being Ill. p. Yet. often they set out to validate those images or. as it were. through such images. The masculine mode is above all an attempt to render a certain maleness of experience. or robustness. to validate themselves. Sorties (New York. James Dickey. 105. by simple habituation. 1971). This maleness of experience. True. sickliness. however. They are all twentieth-century authors. As a result." Illness. Seldom has a writer attempted to render the unique relations we really have with our own bodies. In English literature the body is either a transparent vessel for conversations and thoughts or is viewed from the outside. 59. must mean the infusion of a particular sense of the body into the attitudes and encounters of a life. that "the body is nothing less or more than the sense of being of a particular creature at a particular time and place.
in the end. the force that is conscious of itself and strives for itself." That 5. Yet the will to become such an object is itself an act of the pour-soi. An extreme illustration of this paradox is found in Yukio Mishima's works. Ibid. . insofar as he accedes to it. to the body of Omi. p. "then it would be possible to shut individuality up for ever in close confinement. Mishima's strenuous training of his body toward perfect physical development is really a pursuit of something abstract. the body's paradoxes operate with unusual force. The more "literary" these words. 6.624 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode paradoxes and complexities of being-in-the-world center on the body. in an ultimate gesture of virility. trans. something which he hopes to realize in himself. it is true. an older boy. They prefer instead to render the complexities of the soul. is easier to know than the body. toward the idea of his body as en-soi. eating away at reality. 1970). But of course the very moment at which he knew himself to be released was also a moment of selfawareness. Sun and Steel. and he was attracted by muscularity to the same degree that he was repulsed by the words which he saw as white ants. could only be resolved by the point of a dagger. he was increasingly able to turn that power back upon words in order to change their nature. to be an object-is at the source of both his life's complexities and his death. 17." At first. That moment was for Mishima the union of subject and object. Such Gordian complexities. Mishima committed hara-kiri. Yukio Mishima. p. 7." Mishima tells us in Sun and Steel. The express desire to be Omi-that is. He resists at that time every indication that Omi is other than pure object. The moment of sudden death baffles all expectation before the event and allows no reflection after it. partaking of the solidity and confidence of pure object. Mishima considered that the function of muscles was precisely opposite to that of words. "If the body could achieve perfect. Mishima attained a precious few moments of release from that self-awareness which was antithetical to his idea of the male. John Bester (New York. though.. He speaks of learning "how to pursue words with the body (and not merely pursue the body with words). as Descartes once remarked. as a schoolboy. and on 25 November 1970. Yet as Mishima's body freed itself from words and gained its own power. In the masculine mode. of the knower and the known. the more they encouraged and glorified the individual perceptions which Mishima sought to escape in the pursuit of his great abstraction. Mishima's statement that he sought "a language of the body" indicates the close relationship between his pursuit of virility and his art as a writer."5 In all his years of physical training. Some social or psychological expectation in the male seems to push him. non-individual harmony. but such complexities have generally been sidestepped by writers. In Confessionsof a Mask Mishima tells us of his intense attraction. which.
Mishima's description of his ideal style is in accordance with a common notion of "strong and silent" masculinity. he says. of course. and make people feel something more than they understood. "was on the verge of non-communication. Hemingway omitted. though: even in his high school days Hemingway was writing a hard-bitten prose. The central theme of masculine reserve is established in "Indian Camp. "Her screams are not important. Mishima describes his style as "something appropriate to my muscles. ." the first in order of composition as well as the first in the chronology of Nick Adams. in the bunk above." Nothing less can be expected when the body. the pace of his writing is imperturbable. 49."7 All excess ornament is stripped away. 75. Ernest Hemingway. Mishima's style. a doctor. in the published version of this story. the doctor does what must be done-we are only informed later that this was a cesarean operation performed with a penknife and no anaesthetic. A first-person narrator like Jake Barnes of The Sun Also Rises observes the changes in his own emotions with as much detachment as he observes the weather or the lay of the land." his father says to Nick. 1964). it has "the tension of the all-night watch. 8. when he is taken to an Indian woman who has been in labour for two days.'"8 This discovery was a refinement after the fact. Also in accordance with this notion is the style of Ernest Hemingway." a watch that guards against imagination and sensibility. in that it encourages the reader to flesh out the emotions using as clues the relatively minute variations in an otherwise noncommittal surface. "I don't hear them because they are not important. His writing. In "Indian Camp" Nick accompanies his father. in life as well as in art." At this the woman's husband.. Hemingway's discovery was that "you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted . Ibid. which are in so many ways about growing up male.. pp. With perfect efficiency. becomes the model for words. whose nature is fundamentally wordless. it "pursues" those words with the demand that the writer's style conform to the body's own qualities. The origin of his style may be his early concern with masculine reserve. the body is no longer merely a subject described by the writer's words. A MoveableFeast (New York.Critical Inquiry Summer 1979 625 is to say. This spareness has its own power. 46. and with somewhat less detail. it was a style that did not accept but rejected. rolls over against the wall and is later discovered to have 7.. a conspicuously masculine writer. is "on the verge of non-communication" by virtue of a deliberate distancing from the sense of self-awareness. an introductory section which places the young Nick on a hunting trip with his father and uncle and which contrasts their expectations that "you don't want to ever be frightened in the woods" with Nick's newly discovered fear of death. Nowhere does this concern emerge more fully than in the strongly autobiographical Nick Adams stories. with no variations in speed. p. too.
when he finds himself observed with the same unfeeling practicality by "the man with the beard who looked at him over the sights of the rifle. sentences become staccato. The equation then is clear: those who feel emotion die. quite calmly before squeezing off. partly through passing hints and half-buried symbolical elements. Nick's loyalty to his father is unshaken. p. Hemingway called this a story "about coming back from the war but there was no mention of the war in it. those who reject it are practical men. Tied up and threatened in "The Killers." for instance. however. In "A Way You'll Never Be" Nick recalls the moment he learned that he can die. although he "noticed everything in such detail to keep it all straight so he would know just where he was. luminous. Hemingway. The effect of the war on Nick is primarily conveyed by the varying rhythms in which Hemingway renders the masculine rituals of practicality. If Mishima and Hemingway are reserved in style. The young Nick guards against his emotions as he would guard against death." said George. 76. "The Three-Day Blow" satirically attacks the male fetish for practicality by anatomizing a conversation between two men consciously devoid of emotion. These changes represent the shifting front of a continuing battle against the death that is implicit in feeling.626 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode slit his throat in despair." Now. slamming the door on any further flow of feeling. Thus when the story concludes with Nick feeling "quite sure that he would never die." the bestknown example of Hemingway's ability to convey feeling by omitting it. in "Big Two-Hearted River." this comes not from some redeeming epiphany nor from childish faith-for that faith has already been broken. Serene. Nick Adams must fight his battle in this way if he is to survive. Such an instance makes us aware that Hemingway's habit of dispassionate observation could extend far enough to include itself as object. they are less re9. and obsessive the next. almost liturgical at one moment. a choice. nervous. "you better not think about it." Faced by the spectacle of Ole Andreson impassively waiting for death. Rather it is in the nature of a willed assertion. can afford to be somewhat more ambivalent toward the practicality that cleanses-or merely empties-a man of his own feelings." This practical advice ends the story."9 We nevertheless sense the thing left out. he first tries to "swagger it off." "Well. Reserve is reinstated. It's too damned awful. uneasily." feeling pours forth regardless in a monologue that is a mad parody of dispassionate observation and practicality. Nick confesses his feelings to George: "I can't stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he's going to get it. .. Ibid.
100. is not only about how difficult it is to render in words the truth about a past experience. the truth of his story-that of his conflict-ridden marriage-is almost impossible to find.but thereis no reason to believethat by keeping his imagination at bay and rigorouslyadhering to thefacts. Following his Manhood-a work similar in nature to Mishima's Sun and Steel-Leiris writes an afterword on "The Autobiographer as Torero. Two short stories by Tarnopol are followed by the autobiographical narrative which reveals the "sources" of these fictionalizations and is parodically entitled "My True Story. My Life as a Man (New York. full of risk and consequence. As with the sculptural flourishes of the matador's cape. And of course we speculate throughout on Tarnopol's relation to Roth. Philip Roth. and no confessional writing can afford to be without this element of danger. A confessional element then must be considered and accounted for in an investigation of masculine style." There he claims that a writing style must show its greatest brilliance at exactly the point at which the writer is most threatened. ethical. it is also about how words and 10. The writing becomes not a passive reflection but an act in itself. the writer's cape of words coaxes a kind of death-conceals it-and at the moment of truth reveals it. in a psychoanalytic interpretation. At every turn we are presented with different versions: in the two "Useful Fictions. though. words glide with nervous urgency. . The dangers indicated-legal. p. 1974)." However. A similar consciousness of confession is expressed by Peter Tarnopol. since a man's relation to his own masculinity is always an intimate matter.Critical Inquiry Summer1979 627 served in subject matter as they freely incorporate into their works many of the most intimate elements of their lives. Tarnopol's biographical statement reads in part: PresentlyMr. My Life as a Man. Tarnopol will have exorcisedhis obsessiononce and for all. in Tarnopol's own shifting attitudes and his shifts in style. Mr. Tarnopol is preparing toforsake the art offiction for a while and embarkupon an autobiographical narrative. Not only would the publication of such a personal documentraise serious legal and ethicalproblems." To write about certain aspects of one's life is to change that life. the purported author of the works presented in Philip Roth's My Life as a Man." in the comments of various characters in those fictions. which he calls "the bull's horn. and most of all psychological-may also explain the book's structure. elsewhere in the book. even death. 1 This dry prose explicates the nature of a "bull's horn" over which. This is going to be the case in many works of the masculine mode. which is intricately refracted and reflexive. uncertain as to both its advisabilityand usefulness. A comment by Michel Leiris indicates one way of taking it into account. an endeavorwhich he approacheswarily.
628 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode the expectations they set up may affect an experience before and while it happens."" No Bildungsroman. 353. pulling "him" in behind her. and. Alberto Moravia. center and symbol of his manhood to the adult-the penis has enormous importance in the life of the male and very little in literature. trans. 299. the penis. in Portnoy'sComplaint. Then she turned her back to me.."12 The theme of squandered manhood has been treated by Roth before this. Portnoy's Complaint is also interesting because of its treatment of a subject peculiar to the masculine mode. without saying a word. returns to his patient wife. . looked down. the penis is portrayed only as an object viewed in a general erotic context. The weary Federico. She went into the flat. "squandered [his] manhood. the part has a propensity to conflict with the whole and to domineer over it.'3 11. penis swollen with pride and triumph: Fausta's hand undid the chain. Portnoy'sComplaint at least makes a modest beginning-though not a demure one-at rendering the male's relationship to a part which. put out her hand to take hold of "him. "he" went behind her. An apt emblem of this state is provided by Alberto Moravia in the closing lines of Io et Lui (which has been translated as The Two of Us). My Life as a Man is ultimately the chronicle of how the writer." me. Ibid. And at the center of all this is a question of male identity: the desire to "get to be what is described in the literature as a man.. too. Though in this book there is nothing of the complexity of My Life as a Man. Phenomenologists. Lawrence's rendering of "John Thomas" is in the end not a whit more satisfactory than the flowery similes of the pornography he so loathed." as one might take hold of a donkey's halter to make it move. ligt der sechel in drerd. 12. 95. the door opened. When not sublimated entirely. especially at puberty. 1972). In Portnoy'sComplaintthe tang of spoken American expands hyperbolically to match the enormities Portnoy discloses on the psychiatrist's couch. The Two of Us. "Ven der putz shteht. and she appeared on the threshold in her dressing-gown. Sine qua non of maleness. saw "him" and then. I followed them both. who have explored the perception of one's own hand and foot and eye have been oddly demure where this part is concerned. seems more obsessively virile than the whole. 13. Ibid. rebounding upon itself to imply clearly a theatrical Jewish self-laceration. p. with "him. entangled in the multiple relationships between life and literature. p. Angus Davidson (London. we may still sense an influence of the "bull's horn" on language." says Portnoy's Yiddish wisdom. So far is the brilliance stretched that it becomes burlesque. at the end of a fruitless campaign to sublimate the dominance of his penis. instrument of the adolescent's awakening virility. though. p. comically. Neither reveals anything of the psychological relationship between a man and his own penis. She looked at me.
Such writers demonstrate that there is room within the masculine . for the penis? What style is adequate to its nature? As Federico's penis points out to him. Down!" Undeniably. in a memorable monologue. There is a force behind the grotesque that is inhuman. of course. and ultimately ignores it. But whereas caricature exaggerates features which express individual character. implies an underlying terror arising from the sense that things are out of control. Of course Federico resents this forced admission. the penis has a quality of independence from the body: it has movements and moods." It seems the literary version of a normal psychological experience. that the narrator. This comic aspect is not necessarily at odds with the idea of the penis as a dark and awesome power. in the grotesque actually usurps the position of the whole: de Gaulle's nose is no longer just an identifying mark in Levine's later drawings of him. In an interview with a psychologist friend. Similarly. of all styles. appropriate to the penis: that of the grotesque. What words. for all its comic element. whether in popular slang terms or. with whom the reader has been identifying. then. The grotesque. vigorous force which the general follows dazedly. it is an enormous. for example. Only an undercurrent of strangeness remains as implied comment on the normal male's relationship to his sexual organ. it sulks.Critical Inquiry Summer 1979 629 Much more than Gogol's nose. "Down. in works like Robert Graves' arch poem. the phallus is a god of dark and mysterious force. Federico admits that he literally does hear a voice from his penis and that both the animation of this part and his hostility toward it stem from an ambivalent sexual experience with his mother. it is allied to caricature. In this respect. is not to be summed up in a single definition any more than is the penis. is not normal. So it seems natural to find Federico having conversations and arguments with "him" just as Portnoy does with "his. the grotesque absorbs individuality entirely into the inhuman. The grotesque. it overbears. resists it. By virtue of its excesses. there must be a comic aspect to something which-as Molly Bloom observes-looks at one moment like a turkey neck and gizzards and at the next like a hat rack. it overpowers. both stupid and vital at the same time. it deforms proportion and classical contours. It is a force strongly bound up with the physical. But in listing some of the grotesque's possible characteristics. Yet the tone adopted when speaking of it is as often as not a comic one. The part which in caricature reveals the nature of the whole. Wanton. the reader ignores it too and continues to identify with the narrator as before. It is then a shock and a challenge for the reader to find. halfway through the novel. They express. Curiously enough. Beardsley's illustrations to Lysistrataand certain of Picasso's erotic engravings present us with a male grotesque. we note how appropriate they are to this subject. Comic and terrible meet in the style. the same kind of extreme state rendered by Roth and Moravia. in another medium. it is a force that goes to extremes.
He disengages himself from all that is not of his own designing. who projected a work on literary dandyism. we tend to pass over the style of that dress. For that society's adulation he returns only an arrogant disdain. More attention to the dandy as a type. But carried to such an extreme. there is nothing beneath that surface.630 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode mode for styles entirely different from the reservedly "masculine" ones of a Mishima or a Hemingway. Its elegance was the product of a new restraint which still dominates our notions of male clothing. The Supermale'sstyle is thus one which most people would call effeminate. But 14. The Supermale (1902). Such a style is Alfred Jarry's in The Supermale. A style is. his penchant for absurdity and ludicrous exaggeration. A corresponding restraint of emotion may well have been the invention of the Regency dandies. itself the mark of his eminence. Jarry's hero is destroyed by society. and to win her love. Marcueil. thus. Far from condemning a man's display of emotion. For Marcueil's virility is also a heightened version of characteristics which society favors. Marcueil. yes. He scorns even the society which is his milieu and which he manipulates with consummate skill. called dandyism a "cultede soi-meme". But the dandy is now deliberately impassive and without emotional depth. in the purest versions of the dandy. trans. to a considerable degree. in a version as sophisticated as Mishima's. In the creation of his facade. there are strategic reasons for some writers to approach the subject of maleness in a style apparently at complete odds with masThe title characculinity. overcivilized diction. incognito. Ralph Gladstone and Barbara Wright (New York. and. It is language not opposed to the characteristics of the supermale but parallel to them. At the novel's close. might dispel or at least modify this notion. the bodybuilder. These exploits are recounted in a style which is wholly that of the dandy: it has his polished. Recalling only Beau Brummel's fastidious concern with dress. displays his physical prowess in a fantastical bicycle race and a record-breaking sexual marathon with the lady herself as partner. Baudelaire. Only the young daughter of an American magnate suspects his true nature. He offers only his coruscatingly brilliant surface. The dandified style of The Supermaleaccordingly hurls a kind of challenge in the teeth of society. The dandy is above all a man striking an existential posture. the dandy creates his entire life as a work of art built over a void. a strategy. the eighteenth century made it fashionable to be a man of feeling. socialite with an unprepossessingly average exterior. however. a species of Camus' rebel. these characteristics rebound with almost apocalyptic force on the society which encouraged them. 1977). Alfred Jarry. his moments of languor.14 conceals his remarkable gifts beneath the life of an idle ter. in language that is a heightened version of its own.it has its affinities with such male types as the Don Juan and. which takes advantage of the supermale's momentary lapse into the emotion of sentimental love. .
in the works I have been discussing. Generally the male gauges his own masculinity not by women but by other men. the "effeminate" style of The Supermaleis masculine in its suppressed capacity for destruction. No more effeminate than the style of Ubu Roi is childlike. then. he chooses the most unsubtle of possible models: the "rhymes" of Rudyard Kipling and Robert W. which uses experiences of World War II to bring out the underlying mechanisms of masculinity. for that matter. any more than lesbians are to be ignored by feminist criticism. of course. or they threaten it. Rhymes and More Rhymes of a Pfc (New York. it operates as a kind of ferocious negation of itself. are reflectors of masculine sexuality. though. a despairing sense of sterility beneath the richness and the vigor. rather than the one who contemplates. the despair that shadows a reflexive life becomes peculiarly intensified by its subject matter. The effect of this choice is surprisingly intricate. Lincoln Kirstein does a similar thing in his Rhymesand More Rhymesof a Pfc. Jog-trot cadences and hearty personae evoke nostalgia but also a sense of ludicrous naivete. It is perhaps for this reason that one so often feels. both perceiver and perceived. As a male who is himself fascinated and attracted by the nature of masculinity. Masculinity becomes reflexive. An added irony is the fact that Kirstein is a homosexual and makes no bones about it. though. excluded from the male redemption in Hemingway's fishing excursions and Dickey's canoeing trips. Within the masculine mode. He may tend to see men in isolation from women and to define men's sexuality exclusively in its own terms. Lincoln Kirstein.15 Kirstein has little sympathy for the masculine patterns which are his subject but still does justice to their subtlety. or they only stand and wait. so is Mishima. This is the frequent accompaniment of a life that turns in upon itself instead of opening outwards to the world and must to some degree be the familiar of every man who pursues his own nature. when they do appear in ostentatiously male works. Women.Critical Inquiry Summer1979 631 the ironies with which Jarry recounts this defeat establish beyond it the triumph of style. But in that he is no different from heterosexual writers. The irony of the situation turns the style upon itself. The style which once expressed a bluff confidence in the manly virtues is now made to communicate the questioning of those virtues. For all its ostentatiously civilized quality. As a strategy of style this self-negation is complex but not unique in the masculine mode. For one of the most powerful archetypes of manhood is the idea that the real man is the one who acts. The real man thinks of 15. Service. For the work's style. 1966). Homosexuals. Viewing World War II through the lenses of earlier wars results in a disquieting awareness of disparities. To think about masculinity is to become less masculine oneself. are by no means to be excluded from the masculine mode. . the homosexual is fully capable of insight into that masculine nature.
The words for an action are something other than the action itself and reflect upon it as a thing past. Even the purely mental sport of Robert Coover's The Universal Baseball 16. implies its own artifice and falsity. The reader feels a sense of disparity with the subject-a sense which. And to consider his own sexuality at any length would be to admit that his maleness can be questioned." Self-consciousness is a crack in the wholeness of his nature. Mishima. to confront death. They create an equivalent for a certain shape or form of real experience-an equivalent so insidiously powerful that it tends to usurp the place of reality. the perfect male "must not mean but be. 66. but it may go beyond that. Literature itself. p. Yet both the art that conceals art and the art that flaunts itself arise out of the same mistrust of words. he found his muscular body merely decorative. to win against words his style also had to sacrifice. can be revised. is seen to be itself the subject of such works. Likewise in fiction. I have been speaking of self-annihilation in regard to style. To think about himself would be to split and turn inward the confident wholeness which is the badge of masculinity. The works examined here are written in styles that to various degrees annihilate themselves. Thus when Mishima bursts out with it "Oh. This mistrust of words is perhaps characteristic of the masculine mode. noncommittal styles of Mishima and Hemingway more readily than we do in the stylistic extremes of Jarry and Kirstein. Having cast himself in the role of warrior. of course. the fierce longing simply to see. the style of writers like Jarry and Kirstein calls attention to itself as a style. unless it lived up to its implicit purpose. upon further analysis. when masculinity is intensely pursued this is often done at the risk of self-annihilation. almost to the point of noncommunication. By going to an extreme. We see this in the stripped-down. Mishima's suicide was to a large degree the inevitable outcome of his lifelong pursuit of masculinity. Like MacLeish's perfect poem. without the corrosion of wholeness that is his self-consciousness.632 Peter Schwenger The Masculine Mode practical matters rather than abstract ones and certainly does not brood upon himself or the nature of his sexuality. Mishima's battle against words is parallel to his battle against selfconsciousness. To win against self-consciousness he had to become one who "sacrifices existence for the sake of seeing". they are self-consuming artifacts. is a species of self-consciousness. and. and those who survive are humanized to the degree that they are haunted by the specter of physical destruction. has been created rather than existing naturally and irresistibly as real virility is supposed to. to a large degree. . and therefore effeminate. without words!"''16 is an expression of his equally fierce longing simply to be in a state of male wholeness. The masculine rite of passage described in Dickey's Deliverance results in the death of one member of the canoeing party.
Following the classic pattern noted by Warren Farrell. Like war.Critical Inquiry Summer 1979 633 Associationresults in self-annihilation. A patient psychiatrist or wife takes in hand the sexually tormented. there remains a stable social context. The game (to pick up that metaphor) is seen as continuing in all the works I have dealt with here. Henry Waugh's game is entirely self-created and consists of statistics. though the game itself continues on a mythological plane. picturesque lore--common counters in masculine conversation. . in "Fathers and Sons. And Nick Adams. A tender memento and a placid marriage replace the crucified Supermale. common in social revolutions. history. fulfills his masculinity by identification with the heroism and drama of the game. the individual vision is as important as the social mythology. the variations as important as the theme. ensures its continuation. a man with a dull job. Such observations are properly used as a ground from which figures detach themselves. So absorbed does he become by the game that he is ultimately destroyed by it. masculinity may be nourished by society until it has grown to a point where it turns to destroy that which brought it into being. and it is on its own terms that it must be approached. which seems so opposed to the male destructive element. Literary analysis should not fall into the error. General observations like this last are encouraged by the very nature of studying a masculine mode in literature. It would be unfortunate if general observations on the relations between masculinity and literature were used in a way that hindered perception rather than aiding it. The very stability of the social context. in this case an accountant. and against which they may be more clearly perceived. After the male dynamic has worked through to its own destruction. Deep waters cover the deep terrors of Dickey's canoeing trip and offer choice new lakeside lots to a new generation. for it is in social expectations that the male mythology has its origin. Yet each of these works finds its own terms to express the dynamics of manhood. In literature and in the masculine mode especially." sees his child eager to continue the life pattern of his father and grandfather. of overthrowing old patterns only to establish new and equally rigid patterns.