Hero and Anti-Hero in the American Football Novel

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This book features an examination of the rise and evolution of the football narrative (1870 to present) in order to analyze and define the process by which American men have sought to fashion masculine identity over the last century. The athletic hero functions as a representative of a larger number of templates or centers (the religious man, the business tycoon, the family man, the rebel, etc), many of which have been used by various men to make meaning of their lives. By using the literature as a lens through which to examine the center of the athletic hero, the author concludes that the process of masculinity that most men have been working through via athletic and other centers can be termed “ironic resistance”, a condition which features the creation, elevation and maintenance of various centers due to a number of cultural factors that men adopt as a basis for their identity, then question, and then fully resist. However, because they have no other workable alternatives, men wind up in an ironic, circular, sometimes destructive process: at the same time rejecting and clinging to the only centers they see available to them.


“In this book, Dr. Deardorff addresses the well documented crisis facing men in the United States. He accurately and succinctly summarizes some of the general conclusions being drawn about men in America, sets out to name the source of the problem, and suggests a solution. His diagnosis: ‘at its deepest essence, masculinity is a search for meaning, a quest for a grand narrative that can be trusted.” He traces the quest in an analysis of masculine centers, or codes.” – (from the Preface) Professor Deborah B. Haffey, Cedarville University

“This is accessible, well-researched, and wide-ranging scholarship that asks important questions about the shifting nature of manhood and the ‘ironic resistance’ men have had to maintain toward elusive cultural definitions of maleness ... Dr. Deardorff makes a surprising appeal: whether one is Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or Buddhist, to live a self-sacrificing life in harmony with God’s moral will is to share in God’s common grace and to finally find wholeness as a man. Put in simpler terms: to lose one’s identity as a man is, ironically, to gain it.” – Professor Kevin Heath, Cedarville University

“ ... [this book] may not convince cynics and skeptics within or without the field of cultural studies that men can push through self serving rationalization and group power relations to achieve some strategy for stable selfhood. For those who aspire to do so ... Professor Deardorff provides the game book.” – Professor J. Michael Lopez, Cedarville University

Table of Contents

1. Masculinity as a Search for Meaning
2. Frank Merriwell at Yale: The Football Hero as Masculine Center
3. Frank DeFord’s Everybody’s All-American: The Failure of the Football Hero as Masculine Center
4. Don DeLillo’s End Zone: Understanding Ironic Resistance
5. Managing Ironic Resistance: A Romantic Quest

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