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The Male Body and Masculinity

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Abstract

As male subjectivity and gender identity in general have customarily been regarded as created on the basis of exclusion, any kind of discontinuity, permeability and even weakening of body boundaries has been perceived as a destabilisation of the traditional notion of masculinity. Although such a tendency can be regarded as generally subversive to the perception and construction of masculinities, its subversive character is only potential. Not every trespassing, penetration or erasure of boundaries indicates a radical change in the perception of the body which is thus created. In turn, the re-inscription of boundaries does not necessarily signify a fundamental adjustment in the theorisation of corporeal gender identity. This study determines to what end British male artists used bodily boundaries and the binaries which were associated with them in the 1990s. It considers three significant tendencies in the depiction of the male body: the maintenance of bodily boundaries, the erasure of traditional binaries often directly related to the erasure of bodily boundaries and, finally, the penetration of the bodily structure. It enquires whether these tendencies have resulted in an altered model of male subjectivity or whether, despite the innovative treatment of bodily outlines, the artists have sustained the traditional perception of male identity as based on opposition. Due to the multimedial context of the 1990s, male identity is discussed in relation to films, e.g. Kenneth Branagh?s Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein, Peter Greenaway?s The Pillow Book, John Maybury?s Love is the Devil; dance and theatre, e.g. DV8?s Enter Achilles, Mark Ravenhill?s Faust is Dead; performance and art, e.g. the works of Douglas Gordon, Marc Queen, Franko B and Isaac Julien.
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