A GREAT DOUBLE BILL ON THE LIVES OF YOUNG GIRLS: CUTIES AND EIGHTH GRADE

You may have heard already of Cuties (original title Mignonnes), the debut feature film by French-Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré (b. 1985) author also of the screenplay. Her film, partly based on her own childhood experiences, narrates a turning point in the life of eleven-year-old Amy, a young girl with the same migrant ethnic background as the director. When news that her father is bringing home a second wife, as the Islamic religion permits him, and in view of her mother’s resigned humiliation, Amy starts rebelling. She not only disobeys the injunctions of her stern grand-aunt, the veritable custodian of the family’s patriarchal values, but also joins unbeknownst to her mother a troupe of multi-racial classmates training for a dance contest. Amy’s appropriation of a cousin’s smartphone introduces her to the social networks everyone her age is already using and, what’s more important, teaches her the sexualized dance routines uploaded by older girls that she has her companions imitate. When they take part in the contest, spectators are far from enthusiastic about their bumping and griding and Amy understands that neither world–her family’s repressive understanding of femininity, the so-called ‘liberal’ West’s exploitation of female bodies–can offer her what she truly needs.

When this film was released on Netflix, on 9 September, it immediately caused a major uproar among the most conservative American spectators. A scene interpolated in the narrative in which the director shows the girls fooling around in their sexy dance outfits elicited accusations that this was child pornography. The dance routine the girls display at the contest was found to be unwatchable (that was the director’s intention but for very different reasons). Netflix, which was simply the distributor and not the film’s producer, even had to apologise for the poster showing the girls’ bare midriff (remember the four friends are eleven). Since then, USA Today informs, “at least four state attorneys general [have] asked Netflix to pull the film; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) urged a criminal investigation; Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he was unsatisfied with Netflix’s apology; and a Texas grand jury indicted Netflix earlier this month for promoting ‘lewd material of children’” (https://eu.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/movies/2020/10/20/netflix-tiny-subscriber-growth-pegged-cuties-scandal/5991684002/). This is part of an article claiming that the Cuties scandal has lost Netflix perhaps even hundreds of thousands of subscribers (in the USA) after the #CancelNetflix smear campaign connected with the film.

Many others have defended Cuties and the argumentation in its favour is very easy to understand: Maïmouna Doucouré wanted to denounce the sexualization of young girls at an age when they don’t even have a clear understanding of their own erotic impulses (and when their bodies are not even fully developed). She explains with great precision how the process works: the girls want to be liked and for that they imitate what is most appreciated on the social networks–the self-exhibition of young, sexy female bodies. If, as the many likes show, this is a valid strategy for the older girls, it must also be valid for the younger girls, they naively assume; in the absence of any adult who can explain the crucial differences, Amy and her friends go down that path without truly grasping the nuances of what they are doing.

Please note that there is nothing sexual in the film in the sense that there are no scenes between the girls and any boys (a pathetic moment between Amy and her smartphone owning cousin is stopped by him in consternation). The girls’ dance outfits are not age-appropriate, I agree with that, but they are not really different from what you can see among very young cheerleaders or what is promoted these days on Tik-Tok. In fact, let me tell you that when I first heard that there was some kind of trouble with Cuties, I assumed that it came from the Muslim community in France. I supposed they might have been annoyed by the presentation of Amy’s resistance to her father’s patriarchal choices but, as you can see, the scandal erupted in the USA.

This is ironic, to say the least, as the strategies for sexualized self-presentation that French Amy and her friends learn come from the social media invented in Silicon Valley. They come from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and similar, all of them American products routinely used by pre-teens and teenagers all over the world to poison their lives. Proof of this is the other film which I am recommending today: Eighth Grade, also available on Netflix. In fact, my recommendation is that you see the two films together for they constitute a splendid double bill about the lives of contemporary young girls. They might seem unrelated at first sight but you can see for yourself that both narrate a state of matters that must be extremely difficult to navigate, and I say this as a fifty-something adult woman that would not know what to do in these girls’ position.

Eight Grade (2018) has been written and directed by Bo Burnham (b. 1990) an American comedian, musician, actor, filmmaker and poet, who “began his performance career as a YouTuber in March 2006” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Burnham) and who is quite well-known as such. This is his first film. I knew nothing about Burnham but I must say that I totally applaud his brave decision to immerse himself in the world of shy thirteen-year-old Elsie Fisher to show the rest of us what it is like to be an American teen girl today. Neither Cuties nor Eight Grade have been made for children but I think it makes perfect sense to see them with the teens in your family, if you have any, not only for them to validate what the films narrate but also to open up a much needed discussion about what girls specifically should accept or reject in their lives.

Elsie’s narrative arc is very simple and very simply limited by her eighth grade in school. Most films about teenagers focus on the high school years but this one pays, exceptionally, attention to that grey area between early childhood and adolescence properly speaking. As I recently told my students it’s funny how the -teen suffix conditions an understanding of adolescence in the Anglophone countries. In Spain we take it for granted that adolescence begins at 12, which is in the English language an age in the pre-teen years (supposedly starting at 10). In any case, Elsie, who lives with her divorced dad Mark (a loving, supporting man), faces difficulties that while common to any adolescent since the term was invented 120 years ago are enhanced by the impact of social media in her age group. Having pimples, being body-conscious, making awkward moves to approach someone you like, fighting a losing battle against the most popular girls in class and so on are hardly novelties. What is new is the obsessive documentation in the social media of every single step taken, for good but mostly for bad, and the dangerous pressure this puts on all teens. Burnham has chosen a girl but it would be interesting to see a companion piece about a boy, perhaps the nerdish but also charming guy that befriends Elsie, for no teen is free of that tremendous burden.

It seems to me that all those Americans so offended with Cuties have missed the ways in which Eighth Grade is also lewd, even though these are different. There is a very uncomfortable scene in which Elsie picks a banana, a fruit she hates, to teach herself how to give a blow job, as the YouTube videos she is checking suggest. Her befuddled father catches her in the act, totally misreading the situation, and Elsie tries to eat the banana only to choke on it. This is not at all American Pie-style dirty humour but a comment on how pathetic it is that 13-year-old girls need to give blow jobs in order to be sexually enticing to boys their age (at least to the most coveted ones). Predictably, Elsie is interested in a popular boy that Burnham portrays with no compassion as a total jerk undeserving of her attention; the scene when she tries to awaken his interest by pretending that her private nudie pictures can be seen in her smartphone is another sad moment.

Worst of all is the terrifying encounter with a boy who, as he informs Elsie, just wants to train her into the type of sexual activity that will make her popular at parties and who is miffed when she rejects that kind of favour (though she is in tears at this point). I wonder, then, why Eighth Grade has not provoked and even bigger scandal than Cuties, though I think I know the answer. Even though there is much talk of sex in Burnham’s film, Elsie cannot be said to be sexy (though she is prettier than she assumes). In contrast, even though there is hardly any talk of sex in Cuties, Amy and her friends do look sexy in their dance outfits. Any healthy spectator understands why this is necessary. The ones disturbed by their sexiness are, in short, the dirty-minded individuals that enjoy that sexiness too much. How do they deny this ugly truth? By calling for a witch-hunt against the female film director, accusing her of being dirty-minded. How truly sad.

A personal anecdote to finish. Elsie has a YouTube channel in which she gives advice about how to face the crises of being a teen like her. She has very few followers but it is obvious that the advice she gives is solid. Unlike her everyday shy self, Elsie appears to be confident and quite wise in her videos. The day after I saw the film, my youngest niece (eleven) messaged me to say that she wanted me to buy her a sleeve for her smartphone. Knowing that she had to negotiate this purchase, she offered to upload a video of herself on TikTok and I had to determine how many likes it should get. I accepted her offer but stipulated, thinking of Elsie, that it should be a video in which she said something clever. Ah, no, my niece replied quite cross: either a dance video or nothing; the kind of video I proposed would get no likes… In that way she deprived herself of her coveted sleeve and I learned yet another lesson about young girls and social media. See Cuties and Eighth Grade and learn their lessons.

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. Visit my website http://gent.uab.cat/sararamartinalegre/

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES: TEACHING IN THE TIMES OF COVID-19

My good friend Brian Baker (@SciFiBaker) tweeted yesterday: “Hands up who’s tried, through classroom technology failures and ‘dual mode delivery’, to teach online students down your phone at the same time as trying to organise discussion with other students in the classroom? Next time I’ll take a unicycle with me as well”. And do handstands… Fortunately for me, my school is too poor to have installed cameras in the classrooms and I have been spared the pleasures of ‘dual mode delivery’. I know, however, of colleagues here and in other universities who are using their personal laptops or cell phones and have equipped themselves with mikes to teach in this way. Without technology to stream my classes, which I do not want anyway, I have chosen to improvise what to do online with the fifty percent of my class that cannot attend face-to-face teaching on alternate Thursdays. So far I have used narrated PowerPoints and asked them to read my own academic articles; I am now about to record a series of podcasts and go on thinking of other resources.

Complaining about the new teaching conditions caused by the Covid-19 crisis may sound unprofessional but I think it would be simply counterproductive to pretend that teaching goes on as usual with no glitches. That is not the case at all. From what I see in my own school one important matter is that, as I have already commented on here, there is a poor understanding of what online teaching means in one particular regard: the obsession with synchronous teaching. One of my colleagues has permission to teach online for justified health reasons and what he did was to record a couple of lectures for the first week of his course which he uploaded onto his Virtual Campus classroom. The school authorities upbraided him because, according to them, he needs to respect the schedule whether he teaches face-to-face or online. Since the school has not booked a classroom for his students, and most of them are in the building attending lectures, this means that they must follow his synchronous online teaching wherever they can. With all classrooms now fully occupied since the arrival of our new 1150 first-year students and no alternative spaces available anywhere (except for just a handful of students) this means that whole classes taught online synchronously are having a very hard time trying to follow lectures. Some, we have been told by the students’ delegates, are doing so in their cars. I may see the need for synchronous online teaching when student participation is essential but when it is not this is an added difficulty that helps no one.

Another matter is how actual classroom teaching is being implemented. I don’t really know where to begin… Right, I’ll begin with the windows. We have been asked to ventilate the classroom ten minutes between sessions, which is not working well at all because students have no place to wait in the meantime. The main hall is spacious but soon crowded, and so are the corridors (I haven’t been to the cafeteria yet…). The result? Students get in the classrooms as soon as the previous group vacates them. I don’t know what the other teachers are doing but I’m not very good myself at waiting. With one thing and the other I’m wasting a lot of precious time. Also, I’m so nervous about the whole situation that I think I have only signed up for attendance twice out of eight teaching days. We have been asked to keep the windows open for the duration of the lectures, which can still be done since this is a mild October month (and this is Spain, not Sweden…) but this has already caused students in early morning classes to complain that they are cold. In one of my classrooms the draught caused by keeping windows and door open is so strong that my notes started flying off the table. I am closing the door now but with some misgivings as the space is rather small.

Students, by the way, do not appreciate at all being taught in large groups of 50 or 100 with just one metre distance between them, they simply do not feel safe. I have already mentioned the crowded corridors, which our students are indignantly reporting on a daily basis on their social media. Add to this that some spaces occupied to accommodate teaching are not really suitable to be used regularly. My bigger classroom is, as happens, the ‘Sala de Grados’, that is to say the formally furnished classroom where doctoral students present their dissertations and teachers are examined for tenure (this brings some memories…). This means that this room has very comfy seats but no tables for students to take notes. I won’t even mention the ugly artwork that distracts me so much, above all the ghostly image of man possibly supposed to be an alien staring at me from the back wall. Ugh!

Then there’s the problem of the facemasks. We, UAB teachers, were allowed for the first three weeks to teach with no masks on but this period of leniency is over and now we all have to wear them. This is a decision which makes perfect sense on health grounds but that is disastrous for teaching. Our colleagues in the Speech Therapy section of the School of Psychology had sent us a cheerful report in early September (https://www.uab.cat/doc/mascaretesdoc) basically arguing that the facemasks are no hindrance for good teaching, as they are no obstacle to project our voices and be adequately heard. They reminded us of the need to keep our vocal chords hydrated and not to strain them by trying to speak in a louder voice. This is the reason, let me tell you, why primary and secondary school teachers who need to speak to their classes for many hours every day have in many cases temporarily lost their voices. So, sorry but the facemasks do have an obvious negative effect: not only are they a nuisance, it does really feel as if you cannot be heard well, regardless what the scientific evidence proves about oxygen intake and sound projection. The physical effects, on the other hand, are not imaginary at all: mouth dryness increases palpably and the discomfort is noticeable (and the smell, right?); the masks were made for protection in medical environments not to cover the mouths of people speaking to large audiences, much less in big spaces for, say, three or four hours.

The facemasks have a far worse poisonous effect on teaching: they prevent teacher-student communication. My cheerful colleagues in Speech Therapy note that facemasks “diminish non-verbal communication and, therefore, bidirectionally, certain feedback from students. This needs to be considered and adapt teacher’s attention to communicative aspects such as the reception of the habitual and necessary feedback”. In my own teaching practice these four weeks, what this means is that I can speak (with some difficulties) with my 13 masters’ degree students in our smallish classroom (about 40m2) but there is no way I can communicate with my 45 students in my bigger classroom (roughly 120m2). I have tried but their words come out absolutely muffled (most of them use cloth facemasks, not surgical ones) and I simply don’t understand them. The students in the MA class are physically closer to me and I can more or less follow them, but I have also noticed that the cloth masks need to be held with the fingers, otherwise they tend to slip off. Needless to say, students wear washable cloth masks because they are cheaper than surgical masks that must be replaced every four hours. All this means that those who claim that facemasks are no obstacle to teaching are thinking of lectures in which only the teacher speaks and the students make notes in silence. With the facemasks on any kind of interaction is next to impossible, except in smaller spaces where seminar-style teaching may happen. In a couple of weeks I need my students in the bigger group to do class presentations and I really don’t see how this is going to work. And, please, do not misunderstand me: I’m not arguing here that we should take our masks off at all, I’m saying that they are a major obstacle in a higher education face-to-face context.

The other toxic effect of facemasks is the anonymity they bring to teaching. With my facemask on, I feel like a robot. I try to give my voice all the expression I usually communicate facially (I teach Literature, remember?) but this is very limited. My students cannot see me smile (a piece in The Conversation actually claimed that we are smiling less because it is no use…) or in any way make the many funny faces I use when reading from the literary texts we analyse, and just as part of my teaching style… I miss that very much! Besides, what I see in front of me is a totally anonymous audience of persons I might never recognize without their masks on. In the case of my MA class I have already taken a look at their photos with no masks on for even though I have already learned their names I don’t know what they look like. In the case of my Victorian Literature class, I’m waiting to receive the first exercises to do the same and start connecting names to… eyes, which is the part of their faces I must focus on. I must say that these students are very kind to me, showing as expressively as they can with their eyes that they are following my teaching, for which I thank them.

I’ll grant, then, that my teaching this semester could be certainly improved but my feeling is that I have lost control over my habitual teaching strategies. I hate lecturing with no dialogue and I feel that this is what I am forced to accept doing. Since we have ‘survived’ four weeks in this way and it seems that we might continue face-to-face the rest of the semester the question that arises is whether this is not, after all, what the Government has called the ‘new normality’. Aren’t we generally doing well and carrying on business as usual? I think that it is business as usual for the traditional lecturer used to transmitting information without expecting students’ feedback. For those of us in the Literature classroom that understand teaching as working with the students on textual analysis in constant interaction this is working very poorly. I have insisted and I insist that I would be far more comfortable and effective working asynchronously (and occasionally synchronously) online and properly interacting with my students via forums, etc.

A colleague told me today that, most likely, the university authorities all over the world that decreed the implementation of hybrid teaching did not expect this situation to last. By now, we should be all working from home again. It is fortunate, of course, that we are healthy enough to move about and be at our universities at all but a) we are certainly assuming a risk by travelling to our centres and staying there in crowded spaces; b) the current practices are going to diminish the quality of our teaching in most if not all cases. I am well aware that I am in the minority and that most teachers prefer face-to-face teaching but I still demand my own right to go online (and I mean in a flexible asynchronous way). I do want to guarantee the quality of my teaching and I cannot do that in my current working conditions. I simply fail to understand what the compulsory face-to-face teaching is proving, considering that we are in the middle of a dangerous pandemic, and why all the issues I have raised have so little weight. In any case, I will certainly try to do my best, be as professional as I usually am.

PS Guess what? Face-to-face teaching has been suspended by the regional health authorities for two weeks…

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. Visit my website http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

NEW BOOK!: REPRESENTATIONS OF MASCULINITY IN LITERATURE AND FILM – FOCUS ON MEN

Last March I published the post “How Entitlement and Villainy Connect” (https://blogs.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/2020/03/03/how-entitlement-and-villainy-connect-as-i-explain-in-masculinity-and-patriarchal-villainy-from-hitler-to-voldemort/) to publicise my first monograph in English Masculinity and Patriarchal Villainy in British Fiction: From Hitler to Voldemort (Routledge, 2019). Now is the turn to launch my second book in English, Representations of Masculinity in Literature and Film: Focus on Men (http://www.cambridgescholars.com/representations-of-masculinity-in-literature-and-film). Both are part of my research in Masculinities Studies and, as such, are necessarily similar. Yet, at the same time they are very different examples of how academic research is done. I think that is worth some comment.

Every mature scholar accumulates a long list of articles published in journals along the years and there comes a time when it makes sense to see how they can be put together as a book. I believed that time had come two years ago, when I first submitted a proposal for the book now published. It is the habitual convention not to reprint chapters of books in other books (or only exceptionally) but is not uncommon to collect together journal articles. Or that is what I had assumed. I have read many books of this type but something seems to have changed because by the time I put my collection together I was told that this type of book was no longer interesting. The editor of the first book series to which I submitted the proposal was even rude to me about this: “why would anyone want to publish work available elsewhere?” he told me in a rather cold email message, which truly surprised (and hurt) me. I attribute this to his being a sociologist used to scientific publication which, certainly, is hardly ever published in collections (unlike what is more habitual in the Humanities). The second commissioning editor I approached was far more welcoming but told me that she’d rather publish new research by me. This is how I finally published Masculinity and Patriarchal Villainy in British Fiction: From Hitler to Voldemort a book, which as I explained in my previous post, had been since 2008 in the making.

The very week that Routledge published my book, a commissioning editor from Cambridge Scholars Publishing sent me an e-mail message asking whether I knew of any project that they might publish. I had edited for them the collective volumes Recycling Culture(s) (2008) and Persistence and Resistance in English Studies: New Research (co-edited with David Owen and Elisabet Pladevall). These gather together papers presented at two conferences celebrated at my university, UAB, expanded for book publication. My experience with CSP had been good and it occurred to me then that they might welcome my collection. So they did, and here’s the book, of which I am immensely satisfied. A matter that makes this book very special to me as that I chose for the cover a beautiful selfie that my nephew Álex took a while ago (for a class project in which students were asked to produce a self-portrait). I had originally called the book Focus on Men: Representations of Masculinity in Literature and Film, but, as happened in the case of the Routledge book, I was asked to reverse the order of title and subtitle (apparently libraries prefer the more self-explanatory titles). The photo, which shows Alex holding his glasses in his hand, ready to focus on his future whenever he chooses, illustrates very well my ‘focus on men’ concept, and there it is. It’s very beautiful and it makes me very proud to have it on the cover of my book.

I must clarify that Representations of Masculinity in Literature and Film: Focus on Men consists of six previously published articles and six new chapters (some had been online as working papers for a while, some are new). Here are the contents:

Introduction: Why We Should Focus on Men vii
Chapter One. Queerying Antonio: Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice and the Problem of Heterosexism 1
Chapter Two. Heathcliff’s Blurred Mirror Image: Hareton Earnshaw and the Reproduction of Patriarchal Masculinity in Wuthering Heights 21
Chapter Three. In Bed with Dickens: Ralph Fiennes’s The Invisible Woman and the Problematic Masculinity of the Genius 47
Chapter Four. Recycling Charlie, Amending Charles: Dodger, Terry Pratchett’s Rewriting of Oliver Twist 66
Chapter Five. Between Brownlow and Magwitch: Sirius Black and the Ruthless Elimination of the Male Protector in the Harry Potter Series 87
Chapter Six. Odysseus’s Unease: The Post-war Crisis of Masculinity in Melvyn Bragg’s The Soldier’s Return and A Son of War 112
Chapter Seven. A Demolition Job: Scottish Masculinity and the Failure of the Utopian Tower Block in David Greig’s Play The Architect and Andrew O’Hagan’s Novel Our Fathers 133
Chapter Eight. Rewriting the American Astronaut from a Cross-cultural Perspective: Michael Lopez-Alegria in Manuel Huerga’s documentary film Son & Moon 161
Chapter Nine. Discovering the Body of the Android: (Homo)Eroticism and (Robo)Sexuality in Isaac Asimov’s Robot Novels 186
Chapter Ten. Educating Dídac, Humankind’s New Father: The End of Patriarchy in Manuel de Pedrolo’s Typescript of the Second Origin 213
Chapter Eleven. Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Problem of the Flawed Mentor: Why Anakin Skywalker Fails as a Man 232
Chapter Twelve. The Anti-Patriarchal Male Monster as Limited (Anti)Hero: Richard K. Morgan’s Black Man/Th3rteen 251

I must say that it was not easy at all to come up with this final list, which is limited, as I say, to what I have published in journals (at any rate relatively little in comparison to what I have published in collective books). The other matter that worried me very much was how to place the articles, written in very different periods and circumstances, in a way that made sense. The other book, Masculinity and Patriarchal Villainy in British Fiction: From Hitler to Voldemort, is a monograph designed from scratch to cohere as much as possible. Yet in this one I had an immense variety of articles, from Shakespeare to Richard K. Morgan. I decided that perhaps that was the key: look at the chronology of the texts analysed and try to organise the volume this way. Of course, I have deviated from my own rule because the three chapters dealing with Dickens come after a chapter on Victorian Wuthering Heights but deal with 21st century texts. I wanted to build a nice gradation so that the reader would be taken gently from the 16th to the 21st century, from Elizabethan drama to post-cyberpunk. I hope it works… Of course, the articles were not written in this orderly fashion. The oldest one, the chapter dealing with Hareton in Emily Brontë’s masterpiece, originates in the lecture I gave back in 2001 in my official examination to get tenure, whereas the most recent piece happens to be the chapter on Asimov’s amazingly attractive robot R. Daneel Olivaw, which I wrote in 2019. It is, in any case, a real pleasure, to see together work that has a similar intellectual origin but that was until now scattered in very many different places (or that had been rejected in some cases by unsympathetic peer reviewers and, yes, I mean the chapter on Sirius Black, which with six rejections is my own personal record).

I must express here my absolute frustration with how the demands of our academic tasks prevent us from concentrating on writing books. I truly believe that both monographs and collections should be our main focus in publishing and not articles and chapters in collective books. Do not misunderstand me: shorter pieces are important and, as I am arguing, it makes good sense to collect them now and then in books. What I do not accept, and protest against, is the fact that books count so little for research assessment (at least in Spain). When I apply to be assessed in 2023, my next deadline, the Routledge book will only count as one of the five publications I need to inform about, even though it is 110,000 pages long and has nine chapters which equal nine articles. The idea that a book counts the same as a 5000 word article is simply ludicrous but these are the rules which assessment agency ANECA follows, inspired by the scientific fixation with the paper. I will not include my CSP book among my most valuable publications, not because I think it is not representative of what I do as a researcher (quite the opposite) but because ANECA will most likely argue that it is research corresponding to an earlier period. Actually, I will include one of the articles reprinted as a book chapter but referencing its original publication in a journal. This lack of enticement to publish monographs is, I think, a serious error for it is in monographs where we express our most sustained intellectual efforts. Articles and book chapters are fine but they are short bursts of energy in comparison to writing a monograph, which is steady, focused intellectual work (what we learn to do in doctoral dissertations).

The other matter that needs to be born in mind, apart from ANECA’s criteria, is time. I have managed to publish the monograph and the collection in about two years because my university scrupulously respects the legality marked by the decree known as ‘Decreto Wert’ of 2011. According to this decree, researchers with at least three six-year periods of research validated by the Ministerio can be allowed to teach 16 ECTS instead of the habitual 24 ECTS. I have been in this privileged situation for the last five years (if I recall correctly), which explains my productivity. The monograph was written in a period of one year during which I had no teaching duties. The collection has been assembled during Covid-19 lockdown, which has certainly facilitated matters to me not because I had less teaching to do but because I had no long commute to take my energy away. Now that I’m back to teaching face-to-face I have no time or energy to start a new book, even though title, chapter list and bibliography are ready and waiting.

Back to Representations of Masculinity in Literature and Film: Focus on Men, I’m quoting my own text in CSP’s website to note that collectively, these essays argue that, although much has been written about men, it has been done from a perspective that does not see masculinity as a specific feature in need of critical appraisal. Men need to be made aware of how they are represented in order to alter the toxic patriarchal models handed down to them and even break the extant binary gender models. For that, it is important that men distinguish patriarchy from masculinity, as is done here, and form anti-patriarchal alliances with each other and with women. This book is, then, an invitation to men’s liberation from patriarchy by raising an awareness of its crippling constraints. This begins, I add, by showing men how they are represented (mostly how they self-represent) in order to see where the positive models and the negative failures are. I find that, on the whole, men’s fictional representation is far less flattering than feminist criticism, focused on women’s deficient representation by men, usually assumes. The flaws are there for all to see, if you care to look, whereas the positive models are few and far between. A matter that puzzles me very much is that whenever positive models emerge they are not human (Asimov’s Daneel), are destroyed by their authors (Sirius Black and others), or prevented from bringing on deep changes. This is because, I believe, men have no collective agenda to improve their self-representation as, unlike women, they do not see themselves as a class (or so-called ‘minority’) but as a constellation of individuals. Please, recall that I always distinguish between men and patriarchy and that I would like to see men becoming collectively aware of the way in which they can be anti-patriarchal. I have found in the texts analysed some anti-patriarchal attitudes but not a sense that this is an actual position that can be actively assumed by a majority of men.

Enjoy!!!

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. Visit my website http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/