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Book Review Analysis: The Manly Art

The Manly Art—3 Reviewers

Stephen Hardy—Professor of History at Robert Morris College.  American History, Sports History, Relationship of Masculinity and Sports history.  JAH reviewer.

Alan Tomlinson—He is currently Head of Research in the Chelsea School, University of Brighton. My teaching focuses predominantly on the social history of sport, sociology and cultural studies, and he supervises research students on media/ sport cultures and comparative sports cultures and politics. He was editor of the International Review for the Sociology of Sport for the issues from 2000 through to early 2004.  Research Interests: The application of cultural studies to the analysis of sport, the study of sport as part of a critical sociology of consumption, challenges of investigative sociology, sport and spectacle.

Roy Rosensweig—George Mason University, Professor Emeritus.  Best known for his work as founder and director of the Center for History and New Media of George Mason University.  He co-authored with Elizabeth Blackmar The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, which won several awards including the 1993 Historic Preservation Book Award and the 1993 Urban History Association Prize for Best Book on North American Urban History. He also co-authored (with David Thelen) The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life, which has won prizes from the Center for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History. He was co-author of the CD-ROM, Who Built America?, which won James Harvey Robinson Prize of American Historical Association for its “outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history.” His other books include Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 and edited volumes on history museums (History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment), history and the public (Presenting the Past: Essays on History and the Public), history teaching (Experiments in History Teaching), oral history (Government and the Arts in 1930s America), and recent history (A Companion to Post-1945 America). His most recent book (co-authored with Daniel Cohen) was Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and has lectured in Australia as a Fulbright Professor. He recently served as Vice-President for Research of the American Historical Association.

 

Review

These three reviewers have almost nothing but praise for Elliott Gorn’s work on The Manly Art.  All three of them praise Gorn for his in depth research, excellent prose, and his superb work in making this social history follow the fine line between excellent social history and cultural history.  They discuss the book as a means of showing working-class masculinity up until the beginning of the 20th century when boxing became a business run by middle and upper class white men.  It was at this point that boxing was no longer about working class men in particular, but became a sport to be enjoyed by middle and upper class men who were exploiting the working class men who participated as the fighters.  Although boxing began as a means for working class men to display their masculinity and virility among their peers and perhaps win enough money to take care of their families, by the end of the nineteenth century boxing was a dying sport because of illegality of the ring and the places where bouts were fought.  The reviewers credit Gorn’s excellent research for the amount of information he was able to bring to this work.  They say that he inserts many quotations that help his case, convince his readers, and constantly assure his critics that his prose are based on solid evidence.  The only problems that any of the reviewers have with Gorn’s work seem to be that he is too thorough and revealing.  Tomlinson says that Gorn’s prose may be too thickly descripted, while Rosenswieg says that the only question he would have liked to see answered is whether the inverted values of the working class had any bearing on the economic or political power of the working class.  Hardy has perhaps the harshest criticism when he says that Gorn may have slightly overstated his findings, “that sports in general and prize fighting in particular became absorbed into the hegemonic culture,” in the conclusion and that he may need a bit more evidence to support such a claim.

Elliott Gorn– Elliott Gorn graduated from Berkeley in 1973 with a degree in History, stayed for a couple more years for an MA in Folklore, then did a PhD in American Studies at Yale. He has taught at the University of Alabama, Miami of Ohio, Purdue University, and Brown. Gorn’s courses focus on modern U.S. history, particularly social and cultural history. He has written on sports, the labor movement, crime, and similar topics. He specializes in the social and cultural history of the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is especially interested in iconic figures, from John L. Sullivan to Mother Jones, from Butcher Bill Poole to John Dillinger. Working-class life, masculinity, and the history of violence are themes that run through much of my research.  He has written on the history of popular culture – through topics such as sports, crime, and labor organizing – and have paid particular attention to how class and gender shape cultural forms.  He has received multiple Fulbright and Gugenheim Fellowships.

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