Cool Men and the Second Sex

Cool Men and the Second Sex

SUSAN FRAIMAN
Copyright Date: October 2003
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/frai12962
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    Cool Men and the Second Sex
    Book Description:

    Academic superstars Andrew Ross, Edward Said, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Bad boy filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, and Brian de Palma. What do these influential contemporary figures have in common? In Cool Men and the Second Sex, Susan Fraiman identifies them all with "cool masculinity" and boldly unpacks the gender politics of their work.

    According to Fraiman, "cool men" rebel against a mainstream defined as maternal. Bad boys resist the authority of women and banish mothers to the realm of the uncool. As a result, despite their hipness -- or because of it -- these men too often feel free to ignore the insights of feminist thinkers. Through subtle close readings, Fraiman shows that even Gates, champion of black women's writing, and even queer theorists bent on undoing gender binaries, at times end up devaluing women in favor of men and masculinity.

    A wide-ranging and fair-minded analysis, Cool Men acknowledges the invaluable contributions of its subjects while also deciphering the gender codes and baring the contradictions implicit in their work. Affirming the legacy of second-wave feminist scholars and drawing as well on the intersectional work of third-wavers, Cool Men helps to reinvent feminist critique for the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50332-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE: THE UNCOOL MOTHER
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
  4. 1 QUENTIN TARANTINO: ANATOMY OF COOL
    (pp. 1-16)

    When I began to write about Quentin Tarantino, I was right away confronted by coolness. With his white-Negro persona; his appeal to insiders through arcane allusions (if not plagiarisms); his stylish, matter-of-fact handling of appalling violence; and his youthful cult following, Tarantino, especially the Tarantino of Pulp Fiction (1994), has an undeniable aura of cool. A self-advertised bad boy, Tarantino gets off on aggressively flouting formal and thematic conventions. What happens if we push out the borders of a gangster film to include some slowed-down chitchat lifted from a situation comedy? What happens if we borrow a lowbrow story and...

  5. 2 SPIKE LEE AND BRIAN DE PALMA: SCENARIOS OF RACE AND RAPE
    (pp. 17-35)

    Ever since Eve Sedgwick’s Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985), the erotic triangle in which two men bond over the body of a woman has proved more compelling for literary and cultural critics, and certainly more demonstrable, than that mysteriously attractive triangle near Bermuda. In Victorian novels and postmodern movies, the Sedgwickian triangle—the woman between men—seems to meet us at every turn. Surely this is one reason the more exclusive male homosociality of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs strikes us as so raw and bold; though we have seen that Tarantino dares not follow through...

  6. 3 EDWARD SAID: GENDER, CULTURE, AND IMPERIALISM
    (pp. 36-53)

    What is it about Jane Austen that makes headlines? Mansfield Park (1815) takes up relatively little space in the vastness of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993), yet one reviewer after another has seized on Austen’s novel as emblematic of the cultural tradition Said shows to be inextricable from European colonialism.¹ Topping Michael Gorra’s full-page review in the New York Times Book Review, for example, is the eye-catching question, “Who Paid the Bills at Mansfield Park?” Gorra goes on to highlight the discussion of Austen as “one of the best chapters” in Said’s book (11). Irving Howe, in the pages...

  7. 4 ANDREW ROSS: THE ROMANCE OF THE BAD BOY
    (pp. 54-83)

    How many T. S. Eliot scholars have been demonized in the national press for watching too much TV? How many of us shambling eggheads have been mocked in print for dressing too well? Andrew Ross, director of New York University’s innovative American Studies program, could tell us about both. Profiled snidely in glossies from the New York Times Magazine to New York, Ross has been poster boy for the new cultural studies and more than once held personally responsible for everything “trendy” in today’s academy. In the mainstream media, he has been made to stand for the shocking fact that...

  8. 5 HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: FIGURES IN BLACK MASCULINITY
    (pp. 84-121)

    While all of my “cool” subjects, as both cause and effect of their coolness, are visible outside their immediate professional circles, Henry Louis Gates Jr. is perhaps the most broadly influential. Winner of a MacArthur “genius” award in 1981, he has long been the nation’s single most notable scholar of African American studies, and has kept his place at the top even as, over the last twenty years, the roster of leading African Americanists has changed and the discipline itself has turned from recovering literary texts to reading such disparate cultural artifacts as black film, black hair, Mapplethorpe, and Benetton....

  9. 6 QUEER THEORY AND THE SECOND SEX
    (pp. 122-155)

    In what sense does a chapter on queer theory belong in a book about cool men? Aren’t gay men (not to mention lesbians) quintessentially uncool: precisely those subjects abjected by conventional masculinity, especially the “bad boy” version of it in which boys will be boys, and gender is tautological? Well, yes. But my topic is not gay men so much as a queer discourse that, while professing to destabilize gender, may still at times have recourse to normative views. Glancing back at academic thinking about sexuality and gender in recent years, I suggest that the demise by 1990 of “difference”...

  10. POSTSCRIPT: DOING THE RIGHT THING
    (pp. 156-160)

    Most of these pages have been spent elaborating a hermeneutics of disapproval. Each of my chapters has suggested that secondwave feminist values, theories, and methods have simply not been taken seriously by many of those oppositional scholars and innovative artists of the 1990s who, of all people, might have been expected to seize on and elaborate them. I have written from a pressing concern that U.S. feminism, still emergent as a politics and body of knowledge, is in danger of being suppressed not as the result of disagreement within our ranks or even hostility from outside but rather as the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 161-190)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 191-204)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 205-212)