Masculinities without Men?
222 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jul 2004
Release Date:10 Dec 2003
Release Date:01 Nov 2007
Release Date:01 Oct 2010

Masculinities without Men?

Female Masculinity in Twentieth-Century Fictions

UBC Press

Conventional ideas about gender and sexuality dictate that people born with male bodies naturally possess both a man’s identity and a man’s right to authority. Recent scholarship in the field of gender studies, however, exposes the complex political technologies that construct gender as a supposedly unchanging biological essence with self-evident links to physicality, identity, and power. In Masculinities without Men? Jean Bobby Noble explores how the construction of gender was thrown into crisis during the twentieth century, resulting in a permanent rupture in the sex/gender system, and how masculinity became an unstable category, altered across time, region, social class, and ethnicity.

This groundbreaking study maps historical similarities in fictional, cultural, and representational practices between the periods of modernism and postmodernism. Noble examines nineteenth-century sexology, drama, and trial transcripts, and late twentieth-century counter-cultural fiction, popular film and documentaries, and theoretical texts. Among the works analyzed closely are texts that have been the focus of lesbian, queer, and feminist theory: Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, and the film Boys Don’t Cry. These, as Noble illustrates, make use of similar types of narratives, structures, and thematic techniques to articulate female masculinity. Also included is an exploration of Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country, which has never before been studied within this context. Through a critical examination of these texts, Noble demonstrates that trans-gendered and trans-sexual masculinity began to emerge as a unique category in late twentieth-century fiction, distinct from lesbian or female masculinity.

Of interest to scholars and students with an interest in sexuality and gender studies, Masculinities without Men? also makes a vital contribution to literary criticism, as well as to cultural and film studies.


  • 2004, Winner - Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
Masculinities Without Men? is a richly theoretical text, explicating intricate socio-cultural phenomena with meticulous finesse. It approaches important literary and filmic texts and key areas of gender and sexuality studies in a thoughtful manner. Its thorough theoretical context makes it an important resource for scholars invested in gender theory. Jean Bobby Noble is clearly in the process of staking out a provocative and cutting-edge terrain within gender studies. Aubrey Hanson and Kit Dobson, Canadian Woman Studies, Winter/Spring 2005
Attentive to the detailed narrative work of prose fiction writers and the interpretive responses they provoke, Noble engages complex masculinities with analytical subtlety and ethical sensitivity ... Masculinities Without Men? provides openings through which to envision gender transformations as mutually constitutive, without denying their respective struggles and integrities. It is here that this book provides a bridge between queer studies, gender studies and feminist studies that is extremely valuable Susan Driver, TOPIA 15, July 2006
Jean Noble teaches in the Women's Studies Department at the University of Victoria.


Introduction: The New Men of 1998

1. Alibis of Essence and Enemies Within: At the Well of Obscenity

2. Passionate Fictions: Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness

3. Impressions of the Man: Sacred Countries and the Stone Butch Blues

4. Boys Do Cry: Hilary Swank and the Politics of a Pronoun

5. Postscript: Notes Toward a Radical (Re)Thinking of the Politics of Gender




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