This essay provides a conceptual history of the study of masculinity in the English-speaking academy from the birth of “men’s studies” in the 1980s to current work on global masculinities. With a move away from masculinity as singular toward a focus on multiple masculinities, the influential system of theoretical types of masculinities largely attributed to the work of sociologist R.W. Connell – including especially the concept of “hegemonic masculinity” – set the stage for later work that extended or critiqued the relation between power and categories of masculinities. During this period, sociologists and historians such as Michael Kimmel demonstrated that there was a history of men and masculinity, and that historical crises of masculinity were possible and worthy objects of study. The importance accorded to questions of identities led to a large book-body of work on the relations between masculinity and homosexuality, women, transgender, race, colonialism, and ethnicity. In what might be considered a branch of masculinity studies that came of age under the influence of Eve Sedgwick, scholars invested in post-structuralist thought or in questions of literary/cultural representation, increasingly considered how masculinity is a complex phenomenon often or always defined by movement and change.
More than just an Introduction to the contributions which make up this volume, this article argues that masculinity studies is a social necessity, points to the problems the construction of male gender identities seems to pose (not only) in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and stresses the outstanding contribution that literature can make with regard to male gender identity formation. Moreover, this contribution asks whether gender identity should not be seen as a potentially unstable, contradictory, and evolving cultural product akin to literature, whose medium, language, and chief “mode of operation”, that is, narration, it shares. The article also contends that in literary texts, we find both, self- as well as externally-determined or enforced configurations of masculinity as well as the very mechanisms of their production or enforcement.
This article discusses the performative function of enumeration in Arabic prose. Bringing together a great variety of word lists from classical to modern prose (including the 1001 Nights, al-Tawḥīdī, al-Suyūṭī, al-Shidyāq, and Darwīsh), it unveils their often neglected importance to literature by drawing from an emerging scholarship on enumeration. Focusing on “enumerative games” (Mainberger), the article does not ask what the enumerated elements mean, but how the act of enumerating produces meaning. In the first part, the article discusses elements central to the poetics of the enumerative (including items, length, arrangement, and frame). In the second part it deals with the politics of enumeration in the example of al-Shidyāq’s al-Sāq ʿalā al-sāq fī mā huwa al-Fāriyāq (1855). The article seeks to provide a basic approach to enumeration and argues that enumerative games in literature perform acts of cultural politics.
This article analyzes comparisons between Arabic and Turkish literatures in literary histories from the late Ottoman period, with a particular focus on works by Jurjī Zaydān (1861-1914). Drawing upon Alexander Beecroft’s concept of “literary biomes,” it argues that these comparisons overlooked intersections of Arabic and Turkish literatures in the “Ottoman literary biome” and depicted them as belonging to two separate “biomes.” I define the “Ottoman literary biome” as the transcultural space of the Ottoman Empire that allowed the circulation of a multilingual textual repertoire and cultivated a cultural elite. Through foregrounding the transcultural context of Ottoman literary biome, I demonstrate that modern Arabic and Turkish literatures morphed in a reciprocal entanglement. My work finally calls for the fields of Arabic literature and comparative literature to further flesh out the diversity of literary biomes in which Arabic texts circulated.
Through the literary and historiographical works written by Ethiopian intellectual Käbbädä Mikael in the 1940s and 1950s, this article problematizes the concept of the “world” in world literature. In some theories of world literature, the world is presented as a static a priori, a self-evident spatial referent, a background setting for literary activities. Contrary to this objectivist frame, I propose instead to look at the world as a performative category, and to conceive world literature as a study of worldmaking processes. Käbbädä Mikael’s worldmaking attempted to break into the Eurocentric exclusivity of hegemonic narratives of modernity, jostling for recognition within modernization theory but also, at the same time, activating polycentric connections along oblique South-South networks. For him, the world was not a cosmopolitan project, but a pool of symbolic resources from which to draw in building a better future for Ethiopia.
The work of Ian McEwan is immensely relevant to the problematics of masculinity. The ambivalent quality of his fiction, which was first denounced as being misogynist and later acknowledged as being feminist, points to the challenging nature of his work with regard to gender issues. This transformation is, in fact, the effect of an obsessional, steady sketching and re-sketching of masculinities that have appeared as “resultants” of man-woman and child-parents relationships in his novels. This contribution deals with the portrayal of masculinity in a post-patriarchal era and the significant way it is inextricably intertwined with the recurrent motif of death in McEwan’s work. Demonstrating the emergence of a new socio-cultural era in regard to gender identities, this article proposes a new term for the post patriarchal world (of his fiction), that is “filiarchy” – as distinct from its socioeconomic meaning. This term is meant to stand for the way modern men position themselves in relation to each other and to women.
“Working-Class Hero is something to be”, John Lennon sings, and he might mean: “at least something.” Thus it becomes understandable that the “original angry young men” Jimmy Porter (John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger) and Joe Lampton (John Braine’s Room at the Top) fall back on this mythologically charged mode of subcultural subject formation. And a closer look reveals that both are not only in a class, but also a gender conflict. Both of them produce themselves as typical working-class heroes, a subcultural male subject form that gains further influence through protagonists like Alan Sillitoe’s Arthur Seaton (in his bestselling Saturday Night and Sunday Morning). As a consequence, the working-class hero slowly but unstoppably steps out of the depths of his former realms into the light of social attention, becoming a male role-model to believe in, and thus becoming something to really be. In a modern or postmodern world of shifting identities, the working-class hero provides a very simple but effectively reaffirming mode of male identity formation; a mode of subject formation that, as we shall see, even gains global influence through one outstanding and very specific product of mass media representation: James Bond.
Cognitive psychologists have established that people’s internalized gender scripts, which play a large role in constituting people’s identity, or sense of self, and thus in motivating and directing their behaviors, are to a significant degree internalizations of the gender scripts circulating in one’s culture. Shakespeare’s plays offer a rich array of masculinity scripts for examination and either rejection or adoption. More specifically, by revealing the respective motives and consequences of various masculinity scripts, the plays embook-body a tacit but powerful critique of dominant masculinity (most obviously in the tragedies and histories) and an embrace of alternative masculinities, most notably in the comedies. As You Like It stands out among the comedies as offering the most cogent critique of dominant masculinity together with a strong case for embracing alternative masculinity scripts that are at once “truer to nature”, less harmful to others, and more fulfilling to their bearers themselves.
Heterographics (“other lettering”) refers to the use of two scripts in one text or a translation of a text from one script to another. How might the occasional use of heterographics in literary texts highlight issues of cultural diversity? Drawing on intermedial theory and studies of literary multilingualism, literary translation, and pluriliteracies, this article examines various functions of heterographics in selected contemporary literary texts. Examples of embedded Greek, Chinese, Cyrillic, and Arabic script are analysed in works published in Swedish, French, and English between 2004 and 2015, selected because they thematise cultural diversity and linguistic boundaries. The conclusion is that heterographic devices emphasise the heteromediality of literary texts, thereby heightening readers’ awareness of the visual-spatial features of literary texts, as well as of the materiality of scripts. Heterographics influence readers’ experiences of cultural affinity or alterity, that is, of inclusion or exclusion, depending on their access to practices of pluriliteracies.