Sex, Gender and Society – A guest post from Anne Oakley

International Women’s Day is 104 years old, and my book, Sex, Gender and Society, is 43 years old. Both remind us that social definitions of what women can do remain restricted and oppressive; such definitions perpetuate the idea that human capabilities are always inherently limited by biology.

In 1972, when I wrote Sex, Gender and Society, there was little awareness of women’s rights, feminism had scarcely arrived (again, it had been here before!) and the term ‘gender’ in its modern usage hadn’t been invented. My modest little book went through the evidence about how societies variously define femininity and masculinity, and concluded that there’s enormous scope for all sorts of behaviours. The main limiting factor is how we think about the sexes, and how we impose on them expectations of gender. Doing the research for and writing that book was life-changing for me; I was a young academic in a field (sociology) which was intensely male-dominated and which mostly ignored women’s interests and activities. The anthropology, and psychology and medical science I scoured for the book opened my eyes to a much more inclusive world.

To my great surprise the book has enjoyed a long career on readings lists of many kinds. It is dated, of course: we know much more about sex and gender than we did then. But many of the old arguments still hang around – women are more emotional and less rational than men, they are less capable than men of physically and intellectually demanding jobs, they are more necessary in the home as child-rearers, and so on and so forth. We still need the evidence to oppose these ideas.

Sex gender and societyThis new edition has the original text tidied up and properly referenced, but it has not been substantially rewritten, because that would have meant a new book altogether. Sex, Gender and Society was a child of its time, a time that is not altogether in the past. A long new introduction looks at how some of the research has moved on, at some of the omissions in the original book (there was too much about heterosexuality, not enough about domestic violence). It’s still a modest little book, but the plight of women globally requires many like these to be written, read, and, most importantly, used as a basis for action.

Ann Oakley is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, UK. The new revised edition of Anne Oakley’s Sex, Gender and Society is available in paperback, hardback and ebook formats from 5th March 2015.

Bluestockings and the emergence of organized feminism – a guest post by Deborah Heller

This is a guest post from Deborah Heller, editor of Bluestockings Now!, and Professor of English at Western New Mexico University

International Women’s Day—celebrated annually on March 8—has as its slogan “paint it purple,” harkening back to purple as the official color adopted by the IWD founders more than a century ago. They adopted that color from the British suffragettes, who had used purple to symbolize justice and dignity for women.  Bluestockings Now! The Evolution of a Social Role, helps to propose another color as symbolic for women-powered advancement of women, and women’s advancement of society in general—the color blue.

The name “Bluestocking” was invented in the eighteenth century to signify the intellectually and culturally energized women who frequented the London salons of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey, and others. When Elizabeth Vesey urged one salon guest to attend in casual “blue stockings” instead of the white silk stockings of formal attire, the name stuck. Thus “blue stocking,” often clipped to “blue,” came to stand for the informal apparel and egalitarian manners of the Bluestockings. But it signified much more.

Bluestockings Now! is not the first book on the subject of the Bluestockings, but it is a book that sets out to redefine the Bluestockings as a movement rather than a fixed group, describing what that movement was, how it operated as a networked phenomenon, and how it lead, in the middle of the nineteenth century, to the emergence of organized feminism.

This collection of nine essays, newly written by top scholars in the field, accomplishes a number of significant things. It follows the Bluestockings—and what I call “Bluestockingism”—from the eighteenth century into the nineteenth and, indeed, into the twenty-first century. As an illustration of the staying power and versatility of the Bluestocking movement, I introduce a hitherto unknown eighteenth-century Bluestocking, Margaret Middleton, and show how Middleton steered the Bluestocking impulse into the movement for the emancipation of slaves and, eventually, the emancipation of women.

Contributors to the volume agree that Bluestockingism—an emerging new form of women’s social and cultural activism—was born out of a macro-phenomenon commonly called “modernization.” Modernization entailed new forms of social networking that allowed women to transcend the primary groups into which they were born (family, neighborhood, religion) and to form feminocentric groups that eventuated in the feminist concept of “women” as a solidaristic group sharing legal, political, economic, and personal interests in common. Modernization also provided the material basis of improved communication technologies and the social foundation of “cultural production” as viable means of making social change happen. “Make it happen”, by the way, is another official slogan of International Women’s Day 2015. The Bluestockings were the primary impetus behind the evolution of women’s self-consciousness that has resulted in such activities as IWD in our present moment.

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Bluestockings now‘This excellent volume of new research on the Bluestocking phenomenon makes an exciting intervention in the field of eighteenth-century literary studies. The editor has gathered together an impressive range of original essays. The use of contemporary network theory and visual mapping is particularly innovative and thought-provoking.’   Elizabeth Eger, King’s College London, UK

 

Women, Ageing, Popular Music, and Madonna – a guest post from Abigail Gardner

Abigail GardnerIn celebration of International Women’s Day, we are taking the time to acknowledge the women who ‘made it happen’ in music. Dr. Abigail Gardner, co-editor of ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music, responds to the current media debate circulating Madonna and her significance in today’s music industry…

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen

It’s odd because Britain usually loves an old Queen. But Madonna, ‘Her Madgesty’, the ‘pop empress’ herself has been spurned by Britain’s Public Service broadcaster, the BBC. Its premiere youth station; Radio 1 has banned her latest single ‘Living for Love’ from its playlist on the grounds that it is irrelevant; it just doesn’t reach out to the 15—29 year olds that constitute its audience. They also say it’s not that good, citing ‘musical merit’ as their defense for ditching it. It has though, been played on BBC Radio 2, home to those over 35. Meanwhile, in pop and dance charts across Europe and Japan, the single has charted, coming in at No.12 in Hungary. But the BBC seems to have fallen out of love with this particular Rock Royal.

And so the social media storm erupts. On Facebook and Twitter, fans from all over the world rage against the ageism of the BBC, claiming her as icon and innovator. Madonna detractors call her tired and past her sell by date, irrelevant now. But in moving Madonna away from the Radio 1 playlist, the BBC has inadvertently highlighted exactly how relevant she is. Age matters now. It’s where feminism is focused and The Material Girl can’t help it but be caught up in this debate. The album, Rebel Heart has tracks like ’Unapologetic Bitch’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Iconic’, ‘Holy Water’ and ‘S.E.X’ on it. Religion and sex, power and control remain part of her shtick. That these be housed within a 56-year-old body that refuses to fade gently into the night is what causes BBC brows to furrow. Emily Judd of The Independent (17/2/15) likens her Grammy performance to ‘a demented grandma at a school disco’, whilst noting that her ‘sculpted behind [means that] she’s fit enough to put on a spectacular show’ for the upcoming tour. Madonna is both a figure of embarrassment (the mad granny) and aspiration (the sculpted bottom). Her continuing relevance is that she confuses and upsets. Her presence within the pop arena, that space configured by and predominantly for, youth is problematic. But we don’t expect Keith Richards to stop being Keith Richards, Paul McCartney to disappear gracefully behind the mixing desk. So let’s not expect Madonna to be anything but Madonna and stop commenting on her old hands, her old arms, her old age. Let’s make that part of her irrelevant.

Rock On Women ageing and pop musicRead more about ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music, including reviews and excerpts on the Ashgate Website. Details of more titles focusing on women and gender in music can be found on our Women and Gender in Music page.

Christopher Marlowe at 450

This is a guest post by Sara Munson Deats

christopher marlowe at 450As the baptism date, if not birthday, of internationally renowned English playwright, poet, and translator Christopher Marlowe, February 26 seems an auspicious day to celebrate the recent publication of Christopher Marlowe at 450. The year 2014 saw the 450th anniversary of Marlowe’s birth. To commemorate this significant anniversary, the book evaluates the scholarship and criticism treating all aspects of the poet/playwright–his biography, his individual poems, including his translations, and his seven plays–to discover what has been covered, what has been neglected, and what areas scholarship and criticism might focus on in the future.

There has never been a retrospective on Marlowe as comprehensive and up-to-date in appraising the Marlovian landscape. Each chapter has been written by an eminent Marlovian scholar, and in addition to considering all of Marlowe’s dramas and poetry, the volume contains chapters exploring the following special topics: critical approaches to Marlowe, Marlowe’s plays in performance; Marlowe and theater history; electronic resources for Marlowe research; and Marlowe’s biography. The volume thus provides an indispensable source of information not only for Marlowe students and scholars but for anyone interested in Renaissance drama and poetry. And because interest in every aspect of Marlowe studies has burgeoned since the turn of the century, it seems appropriate at this time to present a comprehensive assessment of traditional and contemporary approaches, and to predict future lines of inquiry into the life and work of this fascinating poet and playwright.

The book is dedicated to the Marlowe Society of America, and to the cadre of scholars throughout history who have devoted their time and talent to refining our understanding of Christopher Marlowe, and of his contributions to English literature.

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Sara Munson Deats is Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of South Florida, and editor, with Robert A. Logan (Hartford), of Christopher Marlowe at 450.

Contributors to the book: Sara Munson Deats; Robert A. Logan; Ruth Lunney; Tom Rutter; Stephen J. Lynch; Leah S. Marcus; Patrick Cheney; M. L. Stapleton; Richard Wilson; David Bevington; Christopher Matusiak; David McInnis; Constance Brown Kuriyama

Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in ten years coincides with new Ashgate volume ‘Kazuo Ishiguro in a Global Context’

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Cynthia F. Wong and Hülya Yıldız’s edited collection on the work of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has now been published – coinciding neatly with the arrival of the author’s first novel in a decade, The Buried Giant.

Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, having won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day, as well as receiving an OBE for Services to Literature (1995) and the prestigious French decoration of Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1998).

Kazuo Ishiguro in a global contextBringing together an international group of scholars, Kazuo Ishiguro in a Global Context offers a fresh assessment of Ishiguro’s growing significance as a contemporary world author. Over the last three decades of interviews and public appearances, the author has been seen to grapple frequently with the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in being an ‘international’ author and writing an ‘international’ novel. By attending to Ishiguro’s career in a global context – via the author’s personal biography from Japan to the UK; by way of the topics and themes explored in his fiction; through the circulation and reception of his works in various editions and languages worldwide; and by presenting a truly global host of contributors – this collection pushes against the literary, political and linguistic borders that Ishiguro calls into question in his own writings.

With new Ishiguro material on the horizon, we are confident that the discussions and debates set into motion by Wong and Yıldız’s volume will adopt fresh relevance and open up new avenues of exploration for those considering literature’s global context in the twenty-first century.

About the Editors: Cynthia F. Wong is Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado Denver, USA, and Hülya Yıldız is Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Language Education at Middle East Technical University, Turkey.

The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval Iberia wins the 2015 Eleanor Tufts Award – Congratulations Glaire D. Anderson!

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Coordinator

The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval IberiaEvery year the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies recognizes an outstanding publication in the area of Spanish or Portuguese art history. This year the committee has honored Glaire D. Anderson’s book, The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval Iberia with the award and remarked:

‘This publication met and surpassed the stipulated award criteria of “originality of conception, thoroughness of research, rigor of argument, brilliance of insight, significance of findings, and clarity of expression.” Although the book will engage and satisfy specialists in Islamic art and architecture, Anderson’s clear prose makes it accessible and valuable to anyone with an interest in a host of related fields.’ The 2015 Eleanor Tufts Book Award Committee

Previous reviews have also applauded the book:

‘Architects, historians, and art historians, as well as scholars and students of medieval culture, will undoubtedly enjoy Anderson’s book.’   Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

‘…full of intellectual insights…’   Speculum

‘…an innovative study and an enjoyable read…’   Mariam Rosser-Owen, Victoria and Albert Museum

‘…meticulous study…’   Marcus Milwright, University of Victoria

About the Author: Glaire D. Anderson is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

Learn more about The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval Iberia.

Francis I and Sixteenth-Century France – a guest post from Robert J Knecht

This is a guest post from Robert J Knecht, whose Variorum Collected Studies volume Francis I and Sixteenth-Century France is due for publication later this year.

The publication of my book Francis I and Sixteenth-Century France coincides with celebrations in France marking the fifth centenary of that king’s accession to the French throne in 1515.

Francis I belonged to an illustrious trio of monarchs who dominated Europe in the early sixteenth century, the others being Henry VIII of England and the Emperor Charles V. Soon after his accession, Francis I led a huge army across the Alps and conquered the duchy of Milan after defeating the Swiss – then reputed the leading military power – at the battle of Marignano. Acclaimed as the new Julius Caesar, he remained popular even after he had been defeated and taken prisoner at Pavia in 1525. Under the Bourbon dynasty and the ensuing republic, however, he was largely forgotten. He then suffered at the hands of Victor Hugo and other novelists who portrayed him as little more than a playboy.

But he has now regained his rightful place as a great Renaissance monarch. He is remembered as a notable patron of the arts, who built some of the finest chateaux in France and employed leading Italian artists of his day, including Leonardo da Vinci. He also encouraged learning and built up one of the finest libraries in Europe. But he also had to face serious challenges, none more so than the rise of Protestantism.

In my new volume published under the Variorum imprint, I look more closely at these topics than I was able to do in my biography of the king, published in 1994. In particular, I look at the court, at the roles played by the king’s mother and sister, at his relations with the papacy, at his quarrels with the Parlement of Paris, at the treason of the duke of Bourbon, at the king’s so-called ‘absolutism’ and the political ideas that circulated in his reign, at his relations with Paris, at the building of the chateau of Fontainebleau. Two summit meetings, one with Henry VIII and the other with Charles V, are examined. As an English historian, I compare the attitudes of Francis I and Henry VIII to the Reformation and compare the French and English nobilities. Two essays – one on popular theatre, the other on the soldier-author, Blaise de Monluc – look beyond the reign of Francis.

About the Author: Robert Jean Knecht is Emeritus Professor of French History at the University of Birmingham. A former Chairman of the Society of Renaissance Studies and of the Society for the Study of French History, he is the author of several works on sixteenth and seventeenth century France, including, Richelieu (1991), Renaissance Warrior and Patron: the Reign of Francis I (1994), Catherine de’ Medici (1998), The French Civil Wars (2000), The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France (revised edn. 2001), The Valois (2004), The French Renaissance Court (London & New Haven, 2008) and Hero or Tyrant? Henry III, King of France, 1574-89 (Ashgate, 2014).