14th Jan 2015 5:00pm-7:00pm
Love, Sex and Selfhood: Narrating the Young Sixties Man
Dr Celia Hughes (University of Copenhagen)
This paper draws from an on-going project examining the subjectivities and self-making of young higher educated men in post-war Britain. Studying contemporary and retrospective male self-narratives on the one hand and discourses and representations of masculinity on the other, the project seeks to understand young men’s internal dialogues with the latter to consider how they informed practices, expressions and lived experiences of sixties masculinity. The paper will discuss the personal diary of a nineteen-year-old lower middle-class university student written during 1961. At the height of the Cold War John was a second-year undergraduate at London’s University College reading English Literature and campaigning intensely for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Yet his diary shows that interior rather than exterior life was the pressing focus of his young adult world. The paper will focus attention on questions of love and sexual subjectivity that John explored in the safe space of his diary. It will consider the role the private act of self-writing played in helping him to negotiate cultural and moral discourses on the one hand and problematic feelings on the other, to reflect on the kinds of subjectivities the diary helped to make possible. The paper will suggest what John’s hidden thoughts and feelings offer to tell us about the everyday social and emotional challenges of becoming a young sixties man.
Celia Hughes is Assistant Professor of Contemporary British History in the department for English, Germanic and Romance Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her research interests focus on British post-war selfhood, gender roles and relations, sixties activism and subjectivity. She is author of Young Lives on the Left. Sixties Activism and the Liberation of the Self (forthcoming in 2015 with Manchester University Press). She is currently working on a project exploring the self-narratives and subjectivities of young higher educated sixties men.