The Age of Superman: The Masculine Ideal under Fascism and Socialism 1932-45 (HIH1601)

StaffDr Claire McCallum - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the rich range of sources available that allows historians to analyse the ways in which the Nazi and Soviet states constructed and projected their image of the ideal man; in what ways were they similar, how did they differ, what media were mobilised in the articulation of these ideals and what theories were used to underpin them?  A wide variety of source material will be used to explore these issues that will range from ‘traditional’ textual sources such as speeches, decrees or pieces of legislation, to cultural sources such as cartoons, film, posters, paintings and sculpture. While the seminar work will focus on the two national contexts of Germany and the Soviet Union, students will be encouraged to draw in material from other countries where applicable. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material, to consider its utility and limitations, and use it to explore particular topics and themes. In doing this, the module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the theories that underpin approaches to gender studies and to apply them to specific case-studies.
  • 2. Assess critically the range of sources emerging from Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the numerous debates surrounding this period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and to compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. To write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

  1. Defining the Ideal: Theories of Masculinity in the Twentieth Century
  2. Creating the Ideal: Eugenics and Social Engineering
  3. Shaping the Ideal: Education and Youth Movements
  4. The Soviet Ideal: The Image of the Heroic Worker in Stalinist Poster Art
  5. The Fascist Ideal: The Classical Nude and Monumental Sculpture
  6. Following the Ideal: National Leaders as National Supermen
  7. The Sporting Ideal: Masculinity and Physical Culture
  8. Confronting the Ideal: Masculinity in the Second World War
  9. Caricaturing the Ideal: Emasculating the Enemy
  10. Falling Short of the Ideal: Combating and Correcting ‘Deviant’ Masculinities
  11. Concluding Session

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent learning128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Marks and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500 word essay1500 word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Acton and Stableford, The Soviet Union: A Documentary History  2 Vols. (Exeter, 2005)

Ades, D., Benton, T., Elliot, D. and Boyd-White, I. (eds.), Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators 1930-45 (London, 1996)

Clark, K. and Dobrenko, E. (eds.), Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents 1917-1953 (London, 2007)

Clark, T., Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century: The Political Image in the Age of Mass Culture (London, 1997)

Clements, B., Friedman, R., and Healey, D., Russian Masculinities in History and Culture (Basingstoke, 2001)

Connell, R., Masculinities (Cambridge, 1995)

Glazer Rosenthal, B., E. (ed.), Nietzsche and Soviet Culture: Ally and Adversary (Cambridge, 1994)

Golomstock, I., Totalitarian Art: In the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the People's Republic of China (London, 1990)

Hagemann and Schüler-Springorum (eds.), Home/Front: The Military, War and Gender in Twentieth Century Germany (Oxford, 2002)

Healey, D., Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (London, 2001)

Mangan, J. (eds.) Shaping the Superman: Fascist Body as Political Icon – Aryan Fascism (London, 1999)

Mosse, G., The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (Oxford, 1998)

Siegelbaum and Sokolov (eds), Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents (New Haven, 2000)

Stites and Von Geldern (eds), Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953 (Bloomington, 1995)

Taylor and Van der Will, The Nazification of Art: Art, Design, Music, Architecture, and Film in the Third Reich (Wincester, 1990)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History:

German Documents Online:


Posters and Postcards of the World Wars:

German Propaganda Archive:

Museum of the Russian Poster:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Leni Riefenstahl, Olympia (1938)

Grigorii Aleksandrov, Circus (1936)

Nikolai Ostrovskii,, How the Steel Was Tempered (1932)

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Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Masculinity, Nazi, Soviet, Fascism, Communism