Toxic Masculinity (Classical to Contemporary)

 Carol Richardson, University of Edinburgh
Lucy Weir, University of Edinburgh

Performative acts of ritualised violence (purification and mortification, torture and execution) are usually given visual form to justify their deterrent effect. The aestheticisation of violence in this context reflects a complex individual and/or collective desire for absolution – positing the body as a site of ritual sacrifice, sado-masochistic manipulation and, ultimately, spiritual sanctification.

Masculinity is, we are repeatedly told, enmeshed in a perpetual state of crisis: the destabilising of patriarchal norms set in motion by feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s is continually restated in contemporary debates around toxic masculinity and issues of privilege. It is perhaps unsurprising that the rhetoric of populist, right-wing politics consistently returns to this dual anxiety, lamenting the twin evils of terrorism and feminism.

In considering the lengthy and global history of public violence, we are led to question the motivation of such actions. Are these simply criminal acts that have been explained away by commentators, historians and journalists intent on emotive and sensationalist institutional and collective narrative by means of which one group defines itself in opposition to another? More ‘polite’ societies (academies, churches, lodges, orders and clubs) might use subtler means of group formation, but they are nevertheless exclusive and illusive.

This session will explore the intersection of spectacle and suffering in relation to issues of gender, especially the notion of toxic masculinity. We invite contributions that are as inclusive as possible, explicitly calling for papers from medieval to the contemporary, and especially looking for broad international range.


Delacroix’s Misogyny
Allison Leigh (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Greek/Russian Heroes: Classical nudes by Andrei Ivanov
Weronika Malek-Lubawski (University of Southern California)

Regenerating Italian Masculinity after the First World War: Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Futurists during the 1919 occupation of Fiume (Rijeka)
Ana-Maria Milčić (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Redefining Public Space, Activism and Feminist Art in Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation Regime
Amina Ejaz (National College of Arts Lahore)

Toxic Coercions: Masculinity and the intimate violence of body art
Kristen Carter (Florida Southern College)

‘A Kind of Love-as-Violence, and Violence-as-Love’: Jenkin Van Zyl’s Looners (2019), gendered violence and pleasure in performance art
Harriet Curtis (De Montfort University)




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