Becoming a man: the prescriptions of manhood and manliness in early modern England
Through analysing critically a broad range of visual, oral and written sources, this PhD thesis is centred upon identifying and exploring the prescriptions and perceptions of manhood and manliness in England during the period c.1580-c.1700. It traces shifts in emphasis of the defining characteristics of manhood across the long-seventeenth century. Moreover, the centrality of both social status and the life cycle to the edicts of manhood are raised and analysed. After an initial examination of both professional and popular understanding of biological distinctions between the two sexes, the importance placed on outward conformity to perceptions of gender difference is highlighted, providing a foundation of early modern understanding of sex differentiation, which is then built upon to realise corporeal differences within the male gender. The thesis goes on to consider the extent to which prescriptions of manhood and manliness were mutable at specific life stages, including boyhood, youth and manhood. This provides a framework for examining the plurality and changing contexts of manhood, allowing for the possibility that there were many and sometimes contradictory prescriptions of male conduct and manliness. Finally, the thesis explores the extent to which social rank impacted on the prescriptions of manhood, thus questioning the extent to which these concepts were constructed in the higher echelons of the social strata and disseminated downwards.
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