Historian, director of studies at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS), Georges Vigarello has coordinated, with Alain Corbin and Jean-Jacques Courtine, the three volumes of the History of manhood (Threshold, 2011).

In your work on the history of the manhood, you make a distinction between the male and the virile. What are these two concepts ?

manhood represents, since Antiquity, the mark of what must be the male, the more ” noble “. It is a requirement of extreme and complex : the descent of sexual melee in the descent psychological, the physical power to moral power, the courage to ” greatness “. Where this weight is weighing on the masculine, projecting on him a great obligation.

You have highlighted that there has always been something of the order of the insecurity at the heart of manhood. Why ?

as Soon as the manhood is erected in the ideal of male perfection that it represents, is always in danger of failure. The worried look of the fathers spartans on their son that would not be sufficiently “manly” is an archetype. For all that the manhood has not stopped moving. With the entry into what the German sociologist Norbert Elias called The Civilization of morals (Calmann-Lévy, 1973), it is no longer limited to the demonstration of physical force, but includes the requirement of restraint of the violence that is taking place in the society as a whole.

The phenomenon of the court is remarkable : while the men are still warriors, but they are practicing the dance, the music, and wield the sword of a very codified. It is with the society of the Enlightenment that the ancestry of the fathers was challenged more in the West. And it is with the individualist society and post-industrial contemporary status of the feminine is disrupted, promoting a self hitherto unknown, and of the forms of affirmation are very…