Call for contributions: The Male Body in Victorian Literature and Culture

The Male Body in Victorian Literature and Culture

Call for Contributions

There exists a considerable amount of research focused on the female body in the Victorian period, from seminal texts such as Krugovoy Silver’s exploration of anorexic female bodies (2002), Talairach-Vielmas’ examination of the female body and femininity (Moulding the Female Body in Victorian Fairy Tales and Sensation Novels, 2007) through to Sondra Archimedes’ Gendered Pathologies: The Female Body and Biomedical Discourse in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel (2005).

However, the representations of and discourses surrounding the physicality of her male counterpart have begun to be examined only recently. Critics such as Andrew Dowling have questioned whether it is anachronistic to discuss masculinity in the nineteenth century because ‘the topic did not exist in the way we conceive it today’ (Manliness and the Male Novelist, 2001, p.1). He concludes that, while it was not a topic of contemporary debate, the idea of what constituted manliness was deeply embedded within Victorian culture, not least through images of male deviance in the literature of the period. Despite the work completed by Dowling and others (such as John Tosh, James E. Adams and Sander L. Gilman, for example)the breadth and depth of scholarship on Victorian men and masculinities leaves much to be explored.

Focusing approximately on the period between 1830 and 1910, this edited collection of essays aims to contribute to the bridging of this gap in existing Victorian scholarship. The collection intends to explore the male body as represented in Victorian literary and cultural texts, from visual culture to the periodical press, fiction, poetry and drama, and from art to advertisement and fashion. In doing so, the editors seek to navigate the diversity of representations of physical maleness, manliness, and masculinities in the Victorian period in order to illuminate further this little examined field.

Topics for essays may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Extreme physicalities (starving, corpulence, physical ideals);
  • Regulation of the male body (diet, exercise, science, and medicine);
  • Military or ‘heroic’ bodies;
  • Muscular Christianity and the cult of exercise;
  • Deviant or queer male bodies;
  • The foreign and/or ‘other’ male body as represented in discourses of nationhood, nationality, and empire;
  • Dress, fashion, and the male body;
  • Modified male bodies (body building, tattoos, etc.);
  • Disability and the male body.

The editors invite 500-word proposals for chapters of up to 7,000 words, accompanied by a short biographical note, to be submitted to both Dr Nadine Muller ( and Joanne Parsons ( no later than 31 August 2013. If you have any questions about this project or about a potential proposal, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via email.

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