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Part 1: 1600-1800, Sources from the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Prescriptive literature for women has been used in the classroom and for research, to explore the changing role of women from the medieval period through to the modern day. With the broadening of Gender Studies, we are pleased to offer a collection of rare advice books, manuals and literary texts relating to masculinity between 1560-1918.

Men have often been regarded as the constant against which women’s evolution has been charted. In particular, the model of patriarchal society has found an established, but not unchallenged, position in the literature. There is now a growing debate concerning the roles of men, masculinity and sexual politics and the complexities and contradictions of these concepts. The materials presented here will help to fuel the debate and will enable scholars to analyse such stereotypes as the cad, the weakling, the sadist, the cross-dresser, the lothario, the lady’s man, the brute and the gentleman.

Part 1 comprises 61 core texts from the collections of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It features:

Descriptions of the chivalric ideal in texts such as Castiliogne’s The Courtyer (1561), Primaudaye’s The French academie (1589) and broadsides like The Noble Gallant (c1670).

Early advice books including A Letter of Advice to a Young Gentleman leaving the University, concerning his behaviour in the World (1671), The father’s legacy: or Counsels to his children (1678), William Darrell’s A Gentleman Instructed in the Conduct of a Virtuous and Happy Life (1704), The Gentleman’s library, containing rules for conduct in all parts of life (1715), Defoe’s The Compleat Gentleman (c1728), John Andrews’ Letters to a Young Gentleman setting out for France (1784) and Kenelm Digby’s The Broad Stone of Honour, or Rules for the Gentlemen of England (1822).

The power of education to shape gender roles is shown in Gilbert Burnet’s Thoughts on Education (1668), John Clarke’s An Essay on the Education of Youth in Grammar Schools (1720), Thomas Sheridan’s A Plan for the Education of the Young Nobility and Gentry (1769), George Chapman’s A Treatise on Education (1773).

Caricatures and Essential Types are explored in the Douce Ballads, Volume 3 whilst Masculinity and Effeminacy are shown through R Hitchcock’s comic play The Macroni (1773).

Other concepts explored and documented include: Heroes & Role Models, ‘Manly’ Sports, Trade & the Professions, Clubs & Societies, Courting, Man as husband & father, and Health & Appearance.

There are also useful comparisons between masculinity in Britain and France making this a project which explores the role of men in differing situations comprehensively, and in a varied range of social and professional settings. This microfilm collection is a must for anly library which wishes to fully explore the role of gender within an ever-evolving society.

Digital Guide
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