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The Tears of a Clown questions the pervasive narrative that men have begun only recently to realize the limitations society places on them as men. Scholars of masculinity contend men now are starting to see masculinity as an unattainable ideal that restricts, oppresses, and frustrates them. This questionable claim functions as a rhetorical move to create simultaneously a space for male voices in feminist discourse and to validate masculinity studies as a field of inquiry, which seemingly needs no legitimization when one considers the popularity of gender studies in the academy and the value such work can bring to our understanding of politics, history, culture, and society. My study uses an analysis of comic texts to glean information about the fluctuating ideological script of postwar American masculinities. My contention is that the comic--comedy, humor, and laughter--functions as a viable way for men to redirect and sublimate the fear, anxiety, and anger they experience as men. Since many associate this strategy for dealing with emotion as "kidding around," few people, even within the academy, take humor and laughter seriously. Therefore, it does not betray masculinity's requirement that men remain stoic and instead serves a vital social function. By close reading comic texts, I reveal the diverse ways male protagonists employ this strategy, and in the process, I reveal the importance of the comic in understanding the relationship between the male subject and society.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Andrew Epstein, Professor Directing Dissertation; Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya, University Representative; Leigh Edwards, Committee Member; David Ikard, Committee Member; David Ikard, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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