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The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science) by Christopher E. Forth (2006-03-14)

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    Christopher E. Forth(Author)

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  • Christopher E. Forth(Author)
  • Johns Hopkins University Press (1681)
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Review Text

  • By Jeffery Mingo on June 30, 2004

    Forth examines how gender politics in fin-de-siecle France affected the Dreyfusard Affair and its key actors. This book not only brings up gender matters, but Jewish identity, obesity, intellectualism, the birth rate, among others.The reader can instantly tell that the author had to read much information in order to come up with his thorough and concise descriptions. I am always frustrated that historians haven't picked up many of the important contributions from cultural studies. This book, however, was a good mix of history, Jewish studies, and gender studies.This book brings up fascinating phenomena. For example, the author stated that stereotypes of French Jewish men as less manly were so pervasive that to call a Jewish man "unmanly" could automatically be understood as both patriarchal and anti-Semitic. Male Dreyfusards considered themselves the saviors of a female Truth, yet discouraged actual women from being too vocal in support of their cause.This book will make you think about modern problems. Articles say that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France just as in the 1890s. Modern Americans worry about sedentary, middle-class jobs just as the French did more than a century ago.Despite being impressed with this book, I know that it will frustrate many. The author freely admits that he does not solve whether Dreyfus committed treason or not and that his focus is upon the undercurrents of the debate. Still, social conditions in France are covered more than the Dreyfus Affair. Dreyfusards are analyzed more so than Dreyfus himself. Non-Jewish thinkers are discussed more than Jewish ones. This book goes into descriptions of physique magazines and urban crowds way afield of the main discussion. Each chapter foreshadows a talk about French author Emile Zola and then in the Zola chapter, the author is only brought up in a few pages. The remoteness of Forth's discussion is going to frustrate many readers. This will only reaffirm ideas that historians shouldn't dabble into gender matters and other sociocultural issues.


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