Thursday 4 August 2011

Can literature have a gender?

Let's try to be intellectual for a change and have a not so trivial post. I know, it's the holidays, but there is never any rest for the virtuous. I saw a gender studies book here, which is one way of labeling feminist studies, or female studies, or whatever you call it. It is always something that bugged me about it, or "gay studies" which I found a thousand times more ridiculous: the way of giving a label, or a niche to a work as if it was reduced to one aspect of it and its significance reduced, narrowed down to one aspect of it.

I sa this and back in Liverpool I taught gender studies, or at least I gave a course in a module that was gender studies. I was very proud of it, because I rose a question that is essential when you do gender studies. You can read it, of course, in the title of this post: can literature have a gender? I am not sure of the answer myself, although I am leaning on the no. Yes, chick lit is pretty much popular feminine literature, but heavy stuff should go beyond gender. Emma Bovary is a very authentic female character even though she was invented by a man. And, more importantly, I can read, understand and relate to books written by women. And my perspective on those books isn't any less legitimate than the one of a woman. This goes as well for books written by homosexuals: The Picture of Dorian Gray is not a gay book because Oscar Wilde was gay and should not be reduced to one. If it was, then only gays could claim to understand it.

So to a degree, I find gender studies reductive: books written by women in comparison to well, literature in general. But I wonder what my readers think of the question and how they would answer it.

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