News from the Research Commons

July 19, 2016

Spotlight on: Ben Wirth and the Masculine Model

What does a “real man” look like? Ben Wirth is asking the question. Ben grew up in Pittsburgh and attended American University intending to study political science. He quickly discovered that he liked talking politics, not studying political science. Now Ben aims to “figure out what I’m passionate about as I experience it.”

Ben’s passion led him to English. He received a MFA from the University of Washington’s Creative Writing program and is working towards his Ph.D. in English. His research focuses on “the ideal subject of masculinity;” what that looks like and its connection to American identity. Ben studies the portrayal of the soldier in wartime literature to observe how it shapes and defines the picture of the ideal American man. However, combat style and soldiers have changed due to the increasing number of women in the military and the need for communicators rather than warriors. Are these changes shifting society’s view of masculinity?


Initially Ben was disappointed with the literature concerning modes of masculinity. He found richer, more nuanced views about men and gendered roles by turning to feminist and queer theory. Ben continues to look beyond the traditional; currently he is dissecting the contradiction between the progressive and regressive elements in punk music, and why there isn’t more participation across gender and race.

Ben continues to research the shifting view of the traditional notion of heroic masculinity in literature while pursuing his diverse interests, especially music. Click here for Ben’s recently published article about the Millennium and music.