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“Neurasthenia” was an affliction that came to popularity in the Victorian era. It was a nervous disease that struck “middle and upper class businessmen and professionals whose highly evolved bodies had been weakened by advances in civilization.” Essentially, this disorder was caused by the anxiety of modernity and resulted in what might be considered an identity/gender crisis. Men of the time found it harder and harder to clutch on to the traditional definition of masculinity they could lay claim to in the past, and now were faced with a new world in which to define themselves in.
I believe men of our age confront a similar problem. With the game-changing Feminist Movement and the rapid switch from the hands-on work of the Industrial Age to the desk-and-office Service Industry, modern men could no longer use the traditional definitions of masculinity. Modern masculinity therefore became a huge grey area whose attributes are up in the air and up for individual interpretation.
Originally I wanted these photographs and videos to explore this subjective definition of masculinity. While I think they do raise serious questions on this topic, I believe they also get to something deeper.
This project is about men of a certain type and how they present themselves. This project is about my relationship with these men, however superficial or deep it may be. This project is about both the exploitation of and genuine identification with these men. Their self-indulgent and narcissistic purges are impulses many of us might have but never act on; they, however, do and are not ashamed of it. They are both awkward and attractive, contemptible and relatable and this is the most fascinating part about them: one cannot cast a clear judgment on them.
- Beth Gratzer
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Gratzer, Beth, "Neurasthenia" (2011). Senior Projects Spring 2011. 319.
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