Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Filmwissenschaft, Seminar für » Prof. Dr. Margrit Tröhler » Courcoux

Completed research project

Title / Titel Of Machines and Men. Quests of Masculinity and Technological Modernity in Contemporary American Cinema
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Original title / Originaltitel Des machines et des hommes. Quêtes de masculinité et modernité technologique dans le cinéma américain contemporain
Summary / Zusammenfassung Film historiography typically considers the years following 1968 as an important period of crisis for gendered identities in the United States, particularly in respect to traditional models of white masculinity. Open to the investigation of gender representations since the middle of the seventies, film studies have since been able to shed light on the relationship between dominant ideals of manhood in Hollywood cinema and the political, social and economic contexts in which they were produced and consumed. Thus, the hyper-masculinity, the provider instinct or the outrageous violence of certain heroes have been considered in the light of the upheavals which the codes of masculinity have endured, be it through the setbacks of the Vietnam war, the rapid rise of the feminist movement, the claims of the civil rights movement of the Afro-American minority or the emergence of the gay and lesbian movement. Without contesting this view, my work aims at putting the filmic representation of the American masculinity from the end of the sixties until today into a wider perspective. If the values, the practices, and the norms endorsed by male characters indeed derive from a set of anxieties and desires related to the destabilizations that have affected American society, it appears essential to locate them in the wake of the traditionally antagonistic relationship that the American male subject maintains with respect to modernity and technological determinism since the end of 19th century. And according to this view, the legitimacy deficit of the dominant models of masculinity results at least as much from the deterioration of the social, political and ideological paradigms of the post-war period, than from the feeling of fundamental decentring that the economy of technological change has nourished ever since the Gilded Age or yet the Revolution.
My project thus makes the hypothesis that the crisis of gender relations which occurs in North America starting from the Second industrial revolution attenuates relatively during the two world wars to see, as of the end of 1960’s, its stakes reformulated under the impulse of the important and rapid techno-scientific developments taking place in the Western world, first, through the arrival of the personal computer and the birth-control pill, second, through the appearance of the Internet, the cellular phone and genetics. Situated at a threefold crossroad – the history of cinema, the history of masculinity and the history of reception of technologies – this research project centers its analysis on the Hollywood production of these two periods of technological innovation, underlining the privileged space which they constitute for the imaginary reorganization of the hegemonic masculinity, as ‘man’ is frequently redefined in a performative mode, allowing for adjustments to the changing circumstances and to naturalize the meanings which legitimate the normalized state of its relations to women and its subordinates.
Keywords / Suchbegriffe gender, masculinity, technology, modernity, American cinema
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
lic. phil. Charles-Antoine Courcoux (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung), No project-specific funding
SNF, Personen-und Projektförderung: 01.01.2010-30.06.2010
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Jan 2008 to Jul 2011