The canon of American literature - especially the American novel - has long been defined by white male writers. From Cooper, Melville and Twain to Crane, Hemingway, and Dickey, the reciprocal relationship between literature and culture has both reflected and determined the socially acceptable roles of males and females. Women scholars and writers have long pointed out that these roles are often different in novels written by female authors. This book examines how gender relationships in contemporary American novels by white males have changed even though these contemporary male writers still acknowledge the models established by earlier male novelists. Greiner maintains that these models, now a paradigm for American fiction, argue that male bonding has necessitated crossing the border between society and the wilderness to plung into the freedom of adventure and to escape women and the inhibitions of society that women normally represent. The important difference in contemporary fiction is that while males still bond and cross the border to enter the wilderness, they now either take women with them or find them already there.
The author examines not only the traditional novelists who first established the paradigm but also its critics, Fiedler, Lewis and Lawrence. He then considers recent arguments by feminist scholars and anthropologists who suggest that cultural changes have influenced contemporary novels written by white males. Finally, he discusses two contemporary novels written by female authors in the context of the anthropological question of whether females bond and whether the bond holds when females cross the border.