The History of Virility

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The History of Virility

June 10, 2016

To mark the release of the English translation of A History of Virility, two of the book’s original authors and editors, Alain Corbin and Georges Vigarello, joined each other for a conversation moderated by Chistelle Taraud, a contributing scholar, and Séverine Nickel, the editorial director of Sciences humaines.

The discussion centered around questions of the development of masculinity over time. Vigarello presented virility first in terms of its universality. It is a concept present in all cultures, a discussion held since Antiquity. The ensuing discussion delved further into the influence of historical and social contexts on the development of our understanding of virility. This focus allowed the speakers to examine the book’s main questions, looking at how our established ideas of male domination and male privilege have been rethought and reconsidered in these shifting contexts. It centered in on how these longstanding codes have changed and how their evolutions have affected our preconceptions of masculinity.

Christelle Taraud saw this in relation to the growth of feminism during the twentieth century; she cited the well-known Simone de Beauvoir quote « On n'est pas femme, on le devient » and applied it to this male context. This observation encapsulated the evening’s objective and the book’s ambition, asking what future form virility will take, how it will manifest itself in a more harmonious male, one who strikes a balance between masculinity and femininity.

--Isabelle Eyman