A new book by Steven Watts, JFK & the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier (St. Martin’s Press, 2016) probes the popularity and cultural role of the United States’ 35th president. Kennedy, Watts demonstrates, generated enormous appeal not so much from his political positions and policies as from his position as a symbol of masculine vigor. In a postwar society worried that American men had become trapped by bureaucracy, softened by suburban comfort, and emasculated by newly aggressive women, JFK offered the promise of revival with his image of the modern man as cool, sophisticated, athletic, intellectual, and a sexual conquistador. This fresh take on Kennedy, his popularity, and his legacy illuminates not only the culture of a dawning new age but the very foundations of the New Frontier.
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More About the Author
Steven Watts is a historian and writer who has charted the sweeping evolution of American culture in a number of highly-praised books. His series of biographies of major figures—Henry Ford, Dale Carnegie, Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner—has explored the shaping of a modern value-system devoted to consumerism, self-fulfillment, leisure, and personality. Two earlier books on the Early Republic era examined the shift from an older society of republican virtue to a 19th -century Victorian era devoted to self-control, individual character, and the self-made man. Watts’ books have been translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Polish, and Romanian. They have been reviewed in nearly every major newspaper and magazine in the United States, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, Denver Post, USA Today, New Republic, Nation, Commentary, Atlantic, Harper’s, Economist, National Review, Reason, and many others. They were also reviewed in scholarly journals such as the Journal of American History and American Quarterly.
Watts’ books have led to involvement in a number of media projects, including several films for PBS, the History Channel, and documentary venues in Germany and Brazil. He also has appeared in a variety of programs on CBS, NBC, CNBC, NPR, Fox, Fox News, C-Span, Bloomberg News, MSNBC, BBC, and Irish National Radio.
For over thirty years, Watts has been a professor of history at the University of Missouri, where he has taught a wide range of courses in American history. Over the course of his career, he has won several teaching awards: Provost’s Junior Faculty Teaching Award, the William T. Kemper Excellence in Teaching Award, the Faculty-Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement, and the (UM four-campus, system-wide) Thomas Jefferson Award for Teaching, Research, and Creative Activity. He also served two terms as chair of the Department of History.
Steven Watts is represented by literary agent Ronald Goldfarb.