John Ibson


Dept: 657-278-2441


Department of American Studies

California State University, Fullerton

Fullerton, CA 92831 

John  Ibson, Ph. D

Professor of American Studies, emeritus

Bio / Description

Having completed the CSU Faculty Early Retirement Program, Professor Ibson is now fully retired.


1976, Ph.D., Brandeis University

1970, M.A., Brandeis University

1966, A.B., University of California, Davis

Curriculum VitaePDF File

Research Areas

Gender and sexuality, especially American men's history and men's relationships with each other

Visual culture, especially vernacular photography

American literature and culture


  • Books:

Will  the  World  Break  Your  Heart?   Dimensions  and  Consequences  of   Irish-American Assimilation  (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990).

Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography  (Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

The Mourning After: Loss and Longing among Midcentury American Men (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

Men without Maps: Some Gay Males of the Generation before Stonewall (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,  2019).

  • Articles, Book Chapters, and Essays:

"Virgin Land or Virgin Mary?    Studying  the  Ethnicity  of  White  Americans,"American Quarterly,   XXXIII   (Bibliography Issue, 1981),  284-308,   reprinted as Chapter  Nine of  George E.  Pozzetti, editor,  Ethnicity, Ethnic Identity, and Language Maintenance  (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1991),  160-184.

 "Masculinity   Under   Fire:     LIFE's   Presentation   of   Camaraderie   and Homoeroticism  Before,  During,  and  After the Second World War,"   in Erika Doss, editor, Looking at LIFE: Framing the American Century in the Pages of  LIFE Magazine, 1936-1972,  (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian  Institution Press, 2001).  Chapter 9, 178-199. 

"Antiwar Movement," "Irish-American Manhood," "James Dean," "Male Friendship," "Self-control," " 'Sensitive Male,' " "Rebel without a Cause," and "Rock Hudson," in Bret Carroll, editor, American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia (Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2003).

“Gay Movement,”  “Iowa,” “Minnesota,” “Thurber, James,” “Vietnam War,” in Bill Marshall, editor, France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2005).

“Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men,” The Chicago Blog, University of Chicago Press, March 1, 2006.

  “One of the Guys: The Distraction of ‘Sexual Orientation’ and the Lost World of the American Male,” National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC),, February 2007, Reprinted as “Don’t Look Gay:  Why  American Men Are Afraid of Intimacy with Each Other,”  AlterNet, July 4, 2007.  

“Picturing Boys: Found Photographs and the Transformation of Boyhood in 1950s America,”  THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies 1:1 (Spring 2007), 68-83.

 “Lessons Learned on Brokeback Mountain: Expanding the Possibilities of American Manhood,”  in Jim Stacy, editor, Reading Brokeback Mountain: Essays on the Story and the Film (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishing, 2007), 188-204.


  • Book Reviews:

Review of Rosemarie Garland Thompson, editor, Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body.  New York: New York University Press, 1996, in American Studies  39:3 (Fall 1998), 185-187.

Review of John W.M. Hallock, The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000,in Journal of American History  88:2(September 2001), 640-641.

 Review of Jonathan Ned Katz, Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001, in Journal of American History, 90:1(June 2003), 230.

 Review of David McCarthy. H. C. Westermann at War: Art and Manhood in Cold War America. Newark: University of Delaware Press. 2005, in American Historical Review111:4 (October 2006), 1217.

Review of Pierre Borhan, Man to Man: A History of Gay Photography.  New York: The Vendome Press, 2007, in Archivaria: The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists, 68(Fall 2009),  320-323.

 Review of Elizabeth Fraterrigo, Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, in Journal of American History,97:2 (September 2010),  581-582.

 Review of Barry Reay, New York Hustlers: Masculinity and Sex in Modern America.Manchester, England:Manchester University Press, 2110, in  American Historical Review, 117:2(April 2012),  556-557.

Review of Niobe Way, Deep Secrets: Boys' Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2011, in Men and Masculinities,17:2(June 2014),  221-223.

Review of John D. Fair, Mr. America: The Tragic History of a Bodybuilding Icon.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015,   American Historical Review,  121:1(February 2016), 271-272.

Review of Philip E. Muehlenbeck, editor, Gender, Sexuality, and the Cold War: A Global Perspective. (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 2017).  Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 48:4 (Spring 2018), 556-558.

Other Scholarly Work

  • Work in Progress:

Book manuscripts:

Men by Themselves: Interpreting the Neptune Ceremony and the Womanless Wedding

An Imagined Archive?  eBay Photographs and Gay History

  • Papers Delivered :

"Life as Theater:   Playing  the  Role in  Irish-American  Culture,"  Bicentennial Meeting  of  the  American  Studies  Association,   Philadelphia,   April 3,  1976.

"Diversity as  Madness:   The  American  Irish  and  'Mental  Illness,' “   National Association of Interdisciplinary Ethnic Studies, Far West Regional Conference, Arcata, California, October 27, 1979.

   "Comrades-in-Arms:   John Horne Burns   and the Awakening and Suppression of  Homosexual  Desire  during  World War II  and Its Aftermath," California /Rocky Mountain American Studies Associations Meeting, Reno, May 2, 1993.

 "Masculinity   under   Fire:     LIFE's   Presentation   of   Camaraderie   and Homoeroticism  before,  during,  and  after the Second World War," Conference on "Looking at LIFE: Rethinking America's Favorite Magazine, 1936-1972," University of Colorado, Boulder, September 14-17, 1995.

"Picturing Men in World War II: Narratives of Liberation in Fiction, Autobiography, and Vernacular Photography," The Photograph: An International Interdisciplinary Conference, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, March 13, 2004.

"The Morning After: Vernacular Photography and the Shifting Boundaries of Male Sexuality in Postwar America," North American Sexualities, Post World War II, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, April 24, 2004.

 “Cold War, Cold Photographs:  Male Relationships in the Everyday Photographs of 1950s America,”  Vernacular Reframed: An Exploration of the Everyday, Boston University, November 5-6, 2004.

 “Picturing Boys: Found Photographs and the Transformation of Boyhood in 1950s America,”  American Studies Association National Conference, Washington, D.C., November 3-6, 2005.

“Snapshots at Sea: A Half Century of Shipboard Culture in American Sailors’ Photos,”  Symposium on the Art of the American Snapshot, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., November 10, 2007.

“The Space between Men: Same-Sex Affection in 1950s Snapshots,” “Feeling Photography” Conference,  University of Toronto, October 17, 2009. 

Welcome to my web page. I spent my entire professional career in Cal State Fullerton 's American Studies Department, beginning when I was fresh—very fresh--from graduate school in 1972. I taught two of our general education classes, Introduction to American Studies and American Character, throughout my years here, enjoying the diverse backgrounds and aspirations typically found among students in GE courses. I enjoyed teaching tremendously at every level, however--in large classes and small ones, from an introductory course to a graduate seminar.

Several characteristics of my teaching changed over the years, but one thing remained the same: from my first semester in the department until my retirement, I told my students that I wanted them to have many more questions at the end of a course than they had at the beginning. I continued to be guided by a belief, nicely expressed by the great Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, that “criticism is a form of optimism. Only silence is pessimistic.”

I began my career specializing in the topic of ethnic diversity in our society, in particular the culture of Americans with an Irish Catholic heritage. I long ago set aside that specific research interest, turning my research to issues of gender and sexuality, especially meanings of masculinity in America 's past and present. Despite that shift in focus, there was continuity in my concerns: I remained interested in cultural diversity and cultural conflict, in the various ways that Americans have negotiated their differences and occasionally have found common ground. Lately, in both my courses and my research, I added to this longtime concern for diversity an interest in the history of the emotions, the history of the body, and visual culture, especially vernacular (or everyday) photography.

The American Studies Department was a very different, certainly a much smaller, operation when I arrived in 1972.  Over those years I had great experiences as the first adviser to our student association, the department chair, and the graduate program adviser.  As the senior member of the department, my greatest single source of pride was the fact that I had a hand in hiring nearly all of my outstanding full-time colleagues.

Full of unknown territory--with surprises, discoveries, and new ideas likely to be just beyond the horizon—teaching, research, and writing have given me abundant opportunity for refreshment, reflection, and renewal. That itself was a refreshing thought as I neared the end of five decades at CSUF.