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The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  53 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Tracing the full history of traditionally white college fraternities in America from their days in antebellum all-male schools to the sprawling modern-day college campus, Nicholas Syrett reveals how fraternity brothers have defined masculinity over the course of their 180-year history. Based on extensive research at twelve different schools and analyzing at least twenty na ...more
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by University of North Carolina Press (first published February 28th 2009)
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Tim Heneghan
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely easy to read and impressively researched look at how the American version of masculinity has evolved over the past 200 years
Nithin Vejendla
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty good overview of the history of greek life. A lot of specific examples giving insight to how members of fraternities thought about their membership over time.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly researched and engaging enough, this work functions to illustrate how traditionally white fraternities evolved from institutions that supported manliness in rhetoric and literary societies into elements more akin to Animal House. Though Syrett as author may find my introduction overly simplified, it more readily conjures the structure of what he readily illustrates. How did a series of organizations that sought to value academics - indeed, required literary and debate in many of their ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was a Chi Phi during Amherst College's awkward growth stage some 35 years ago, when the school went co-ed, as did some of its venerable fraternities—which were all dissolved by the college three years after I graduated, on the grounds that they negatively affected campus life. As a woman who had graduated from a lousy public school, worked in the Amherst dining hall for $2.25 an hour to meet expenses, and joined Chi Phi to get out of a miserable housing situation, I was hardly traditional frat ...more
Tiny Pants
Are you ready for the most boring, dry review I'll ever write? I'm sorry, this has been a rough quarter, and I think my brain is about tapped. It's too bad, because this book, which draws heavily on archival sources and manages to pass with astonishing ease the bar for decent sociological arguments made by non-sociologists, was really good.

So this was a really interesting history of white social fraternities, focusing primarily on their origins in the antebellum period through the 1920s, though
Tim O'Hearn
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Thoroughly researched; thoroughly dry. The introductory chapter lead me to believe that the 'history' would extend to the present. On one hand, many of the significant events of the 21st century have occurred between 2009 and 2015, but, on the other hand, it's unfair to aggregate post-WWII to 2009 into one chapter.

Far into the book, the author's fix on homosexuality and ridiculous hazing stories presented as fact erode his legitimacy as a Greek historian and paint him more as a Greek opponent w
David Ward
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it
The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities by Nicholas L. Syrett (UNC Press 2009) (378.1). This is a somewhat dry recitation of the history of Greek letter fraternities on college campuses. It is limited to white fraternities in this study. The story gains steam post-World War II when the emphasis of the greek system apparently morphed from academic excellence, thesbianism, and elocution into brotherhood, alcohol, seduction, and fun! That was certainly true for my fraternity a ...more
Malena Watrous
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully researched, written and thought out book, that would appeal to readers both in and out of academia. Nick uses historical documents from fraternities to study the way that men perform masculinity for each other. He has one of those direct, smart yet colloquial written voices that can make ostensibly dry archival material fascinating and accessible even to people who are outside the field and wouldn't normally read scholarly writing. An impressive contribution and a pleasure. ...more
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really interesting thesis. I am tempted to criticize the breadth of his research, but that's just picking nits, really.
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Dry, long-winded research on the antebellum roots of white fraternity life and its impact on modern collegiate life. Interesting and makes one say "oh that's why they do that."
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Raised in Peterborough, Ontario, Nicholas L. Syrett is a historian of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century US and Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas. He is the author of The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities (2009) and American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States (2016). He is also a coeditor of Age ...more

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