Talking about men: conversations about masculinities in recent 'gender-bending' science fiction

Wight, Linda (2009) Talking about men: conversations about masculinities in recent 'gender-bending' science fiction. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Science fiction is often called the literature/genre of ideas, while SF writers and readers are also seen to function as a highly engaged and conversant community. Within this community, ideas can generate an ongoing conversation between science fiction texts and authors, as well as among readers, convention attendees, academics and, of late, web communities. Often the conversation concerns gender or, more specifically, how science fiction texts represent gender, including masculinities. Yet critical discussion of fictional constructions of masculinities in science fiction has been limited. This thesis addresses this gap through in-depth literary analysis of ten science fiction short stories and novels which participate in an ongoing conversation about ideas of masculinity. The selected texts have either won or been shortlisted for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. One primary reason for choosing these texts is that, since 1991, the Tiptree Award has been presented annually to a science fiction or fantasy short story or novel that, "expands or explores our understanding of gender" (Tiptree). This thesis applies both feminist and masculinities theory to the chosen texts, as well as some postcolonial and queer perspectives, to show that although science fiction has been at the cutting edge of fictional explorations of gender as concerning women, it currently lags behind contemporary theorists in its exploration of masculinities.

On the one hand, the majority of the selected Tiptree Award texts offer convincing and thoughtful critiques of certain hegemonic masculine identities, including the warrior and the scientist. Hegemonic masculinity is likewise a central concern for leading masculinities theorists, such as R.W. Connell, Lynne Segal and Michael S. Kimmel, but along with Carole Pateman, Ellen Jordan and Angela Cowan, these theorists identify the civil narrative of masculinity as the currently dominant construction in most Western societies. The majority of the selected Tiptree Award science fiction texts avoid close engagement with this narrative, in favour of critiquing older versions of masculinity. Another key concern for contemporary masculinities theorists is the notion of "multiple masculinities." Although the male characters portrayed in the chosen science fiction texts are mostly white, straight and middle-to-upper class, some of the writers do add to the conversation about masculinities by also exploring masculinities that vary from the hegemonic norm in terms of class, race and sexual orientation/performance. Thus, despite some limitations, the Tiptree Award texts indicate an ongoing attempt to engage with and build on earlier science fiction that used the same tropes, and to question, modify and expand upon their depictions of men and masculinities.

Item ID: 11566
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: masculinity in fiction, gender in science fiction, James Tiptree Jr. Award, male identities, masculinities, masculine roles, hermaphrodites in science fiction, aliens in science fiction, science fiction
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2010 22:25
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200526 Stylistics and Textual Analysis @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950203 Languages and Literature @ 100%
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