What Kind of Man Reads Playboy?: Constructions of 20th Century American Masculinity Winter 2024

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Class Details

Masculinity and consumerist expressions of American “male-ness” will be explored in the class through the medium of magazine culture, specifically through Playboy magazine, one of the most popular men’s magazines in American history. The American (male) magazine during the postwar period straddles a dual existence of advertisement and product, simultaneously pushing advertisements for male consumerism of goods, services, and the feminine body alongside its own existence as a product of fiction, journalism, and photography. Throughout the course, we will explore this form of communication through different themes, ranging from war to social and socioeconomic class to women and gender to the self and culture. By looking at these themes, students will become acquainted with ideals of masculinity in addition to exploring how these ideals are built, who controls and submits to them, and why. We seek to understand and contextualize the answer to the question “what kind of man reads Playboy?” In this course, we will use a variety of primary and secondary resources which showcase the magazine culture of the time, while also understanding their lasting effect on the national canon. Due to the focus on primary sources, most of our sessions will take place in Special Collections. While in Special Collections, students will be asked to ground their observations of Playboy-manufactured masculinity in examples with College Archives and the Chapin Library. Weekly readings will be assigned and will mostly be interviews, articles, “letters to the editor” featured in Playboy magazine, as well as other supplementary materials from comparable sources and academic journals.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 15
Expected: NA
Class#: 1334
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Paper(s) or report(s); Presentation(s)
Prerequisites: Students must have previously taken at least one course in English, History, or WGSS.
Enrollment Preferences: Preference for students in their junior or senior year. If the course is overenrolled, students will be asked to write a paragraph describing their interest in the course.
Unit Notes: Ruth Kramer graduated from Williams College in 2022, where she majored in History and French. Currently, she works in Special Collections as a post-bac fellow and is working towards a Masters degree in Library and Information Science.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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