This article explores representations of the manly body and the ways in which its relationship with masculine identity and embodied selfhood changed over time and class. It spans a period in which different types of masculinities were dominant, from the later eighteenth-century man of feeling to the later nineteenth-century muscular Christian, and proposes that an embodied approach offers a more nuanced consideration of the ways in which ideals of masculinity were culturally viewed and utilised. First, it provides a chronology of the manner in which the ideal manly body changed over the two centuries, demonstrating that abstract masculine values were always rooted in male bodies. Secondly, it proposes that although most idealised masculine identities were elite, attention to the more corporeal aspects of gender offers evidence that there were features of the manly body, for example hardness, that appealed across social ranks. Elite men valorised idealised working-class men’s bodies and saw in them something to emulate. Moreover, working-class men used classically-inspired figures to represent themselves when formulating class and gender identities.
Year of publication: 2016Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-05-11