Bodies, emotion, and material culture
Author: Joanne Begiato

Manliness in Britain offers a new account of masculinity in the long nineteenth century: more corporeal and material, more emotional, more cross-class, and less heteronormative than other studies. Using diverse textual, visual, and material culture sources, it shows that masculinities were produced and disseminated through men’s bodies, very often working-class ones, and the emotions and material culture associated with them. It analyses idealised men who stimulated desire and admiration, including virile boxers, soldiers, sailors, and blacksmiths, brave firemen, and noble industrial workers. Also investigated are unmanly men, such as drunkards, wife beaters, and masturbators, who elicited disgust and aversion. The book disrupts the chronology of nineteenth-century masculinities, since it stretches from the ages of feeling, revolution, and reform, to those of militarism, imperialism, representative democracy, and mass media. It also queers these histories, by recognising that male and female desire for idealised male bodies and the gender attributes they embodied was integral to the success of manliness. Imagined working-class men and their materiality were central to broader ideas of manliness and unmanliness. They not only offered didactic lessons for the working classes and made the labouring ranks appear less threatening, they provide insights into the production of middle-class men’s identities. Overall, it is shown that this melding of bodies, emotions, and material culture created emotionalised bodies and objects, which facilitated the conveying, reproducing, and fixing of manliness in society. As such, the book will be vital for students and academics of the history of bodies, emotions, gender, and material culture.

Male bodies and manliness
Joanne Begiato

This chapter reveals how manliness was conveyed through beautiful, virile, male bodies. Such appealing male figures and faces were associated with positive emotions that were coded as both manly and moral. This chapter explores their changing forms over time, shaped by modernity, sport, anthropometry, and physiognomy, but also addresses the role of male beauty in disseminating ideals of manliness. It takes a queer history approach which deliberately makes strange the conjunction between physical beauty and masculine values. It rejects assumptions about normative masculinities and how they were created and circulated and instead adopts the techniques of scholarship that queers sexual constructions. Overall, it proposes that beautiful male forms and appearances were intended to arouse desire for the gender that these bodies bore. This nuances our understanding of the gaze. It shows that the idealised manly body was active, since it was an agent of prized gender values. Yet it was also passive, as the erotic object of a female and male desirous gaze, and subordinate, for although some of the descriptions of idealised male bodies in this chapter were elite, many manly and unmanly bodies were those of white working-class men.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
The penalties and paradoxes of unmanliness
Joanne Begiato

This chapter demonstrates that unmanliness was written onto ill-formed, unappealing bodies and faces that prompted disgust, fear, and shame. It shows that adult men were instructed on how to avoid unmanliness through emotionalised bodies: failing, uncontrolled, unattractive bodies created by unchecked appetites and bad habits such as drunkenness, and sexual vices. Men were thus taught that the inability to master one’s self caused literal physical, mental, and moral disintegration. Lack of self-control became more dangerous in the nineteenth century as excessive passions, bodily appetites, and feelings were increasingly pathologised as causes of disease and insanity. Responsibility was placed upon the male individual for failing to exert enough moral control to avoid his illness. The discussion of the relationship between unmanliness, bodies, and emotions that follows reveals the inherent paradox of masculine identity, since many unmanly behaviours were also those which, in a managed form, were central to the performance of normative masculinity. Thus, men had to navigate considerable ambiguities in performing their gender. The chapter shows how unmanliness was especially complicated for those men whose bodies were lacking, due to disability, age, or infirmity.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
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Manliness and the home
Joanne Begiato

This chapter demonstrates how cultural accounts of men in the home inculcated feelings that produced, reinforced, and disseminated notions of masculinity. It shows that while manly men were considered integral to the success of the home, they were nevertheless envisioned outside the home, fighting for it, defending it, or providing for it. As such, this chapter addresses men’s absence from home through the popular motifs of men leaving and returning, dreaming of home, and their ‘absent presence’; that is, objects which acted as reminders of those who were away from home for long periods. When print and visual culture imagined men within the home, it was as catalysts for a ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’ home, predominantly fashioned through their performance of key emotions. Men could produce ‘happy’ homes through their provision, frugality, kindness, love, and affection. Or their disruptive unmanly behaviours could result in ‘unhappy’ homes, sites of domestic violence. The chapter focuses on representations of working-class men because middle-class imaginations often scrutinised their emotional and sexual performances in the home, since this was deemed central to a successful society and nation. As such, working-class men also functioned to remind middle-class men what they should aspire to and avoid being.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
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Glorifying the working body
Joanne Begiato

This chapter examines representations of working men’s bodies. The first section explores the nobility assigned to the muscular body, interrogated through the imagined blacksmith and navvy. The next addresses the role of heroism, another appealing quality, primarily through miners, firemen, and lifeboat men. Such strong and appealing working men offered a more comforting vision of working-class masculinity than that in which such men were politically and socially dangerous. Kindness was attributed to both brawn and brave stereotypes, taming the muscular and reckless body. This was not working men’s only function for a middle-class audience, since the same combination of alluring physical and emotional qualities also rendered the working-class male body desirable as a manly ideal. The chapter then shows that the working classes created and disseminated their own highly emotional and material manifestation of working-class manliness on the material culture of trade unions and friendly societies. However, the emotions associated with them were subtly different and deployed in different ways. For middle-class men, the attractive working man was reassuring and admirable, for working-class men he was a measure of their right to be included in the civic polity.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
An introduction
Joanne Begiato

This introduction offers a rich overview of the scholarship on the histories of the body, emotions, and material culture as they relate to gender. It explains how Manliness in Britain develops this work to understand how bodies, emotions, and materiality helped construct masculinities in the long nineteenth century. It shows that a queer history approach, combined with theories of emotional bodies and emotional objects, offers a new way to think about manliness and unmanliness. The introduction is divided into three sections. It summarises histories relating to ‘being’ a man, focusing on the embodied qualities of manliness and on self-control, the primary means by which men were supposed to achieve idealised manly behaviour. It then assesses the scholarship relating to three domains in which manliness was understood to be performed and tested: war, home, and work.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
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Martial manliness and material culture
Joanne Begiato

This chapter brings together bodies, emotions, and objects through the most desirable idealised man of all: the martial man. Fictional and real military men were imagined through emotionalised bodies, with material culture often acting as the point of entry for the cultural work they performed in producing and disseminating manliness. Drawing on the concept of emotional objects, three types of material culture that inspired feelings that reinforced ideas about idealised manliness are examined. The first type are artefacts of war and the military, including uniforms, weaponry, battlefield objects, medals, ships, and regimental colours. The second are the objects encountered at the domestic level, including toys, ceramics, and textiles, which depicted martial manliness or had intimate connections with soldiers and sailors. They appealed to all age groups, genders, and social classes, and had a domestic function or ornamental appeal. The third type considered consists of the material culture that celebrity military heroes generated, from consumable products that deployed their names and images, to the monuments that memorialised them, to the very stuff of their bodies. This irresistible nexus of emotionalised bodies and objects prompted affective responses, which disseminated, reinforced, and maintained civilian masculinities.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
An epilogue
Joanne Begiato

This epilogue explores the continued resonances of emotionalised bodies and material culture for contemporary masculinities. It considers men’s ‘spectacular bodies’ in entertainment and advertising, along with their more sinister political associations and uses. Then it explores the imaginative conjunction of emotions, bodies, and material culture in formulations of military masculinity in recruitment drives, in the romanticised and politicised tropes of servicemen’s damaged bodies and minds, and in creative projects seeking to materialise military men’s experiences. It shows how changed forms of male work, as well as unemployment, retirement, illness, and, more recently, paternal caring roles, are now configured through men’s uneasy presence in the home: an arena in which manhood is still presumed to be undermined or compromised. Finally, it shows how the emotionalised working-class male body has changed as radically as notions of class itself in the post-industrial economy of British society. There are no noble images of working-class men at their labours. Most images of working-class men are derogatory, whether they are perceived as a dangerous political threat or a redundant, residual form of masculinity. It concludes that the culture wars of late capitalism are fought over men’s bodies and emotions.

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
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Michael Brown and Joanne Begiato
in Martial masculinities
Memory, masculinity and nation
Michael Brown and Joanne Begiato

This chapter explores the visual and textual representation of the aged veteran during the long nineteenth century. Rather than providing a social historical account of the lived experiences of elderly former soldiers and sailors, it considers how these men were imagined and consumed, how they came to represent the conflicts in which they had fought, and how they were made and remade to accommodate new narratives. The analysis is divided into three main parts. First, it explores the dynamics of remembering and forgetting, showing how, while many aged veterans were indeed forgotten by both the public and the state, the figure of the forgotten veteran was, paradoxically, the subject of considerable literary and artistic meditation. Secondly, it examines the generational qualities of the representation of the aged veteran and the ways in which he was figured as an exemplar and progenitor for the inheritance of military, masculine and moral values. And thirdly, it considers the issues of materiality and performativity, demonstrating how the imaginative power of the aged veteran was shaped by his body, his material adornment and even, on occasion, his public performance.

in Martial masculinities