Justice Holmes, Bad Boy
9 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2019
Date Written: 2019
James M. Kang's "Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fixations of Manliness" undertakes a particularly charged subject in light of the #MeToo Movement and accumulating accusations of "toxic masculinity." Kang is right to recognize the abiding influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson on Holmes, but his construal of manliness or masculinity is generalized and ill-explained. The lack of a clear definition for manliness confounds Kang's treatment of Holmes as a reckless youth and than as a grown man who admired soldierly courage. Nor does Kang demonstrate a familiarity with polemical, important theories in the field of gender studies. This review essay suggests that a more persuasive interpretation of the manliness that appears to characterize Holmes might be found in Harvey C. Mansfield's insightful yet controversial "Manliness," which discusses the Darwinian, Nietzschean influences that shaped conceptions of manliness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although Mansfield does not make room for Emerson or Holmes in his study, he captures the Emersonian individualism that Kang identifies in Holmes. Mansfield's focus on Nietzsche is striking in light of the philosophical nexus between Emerson and Nietzsche, and indeed between Holmes and Nietzsche.
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