Advertisement

A Sentimental Fathering Model: Alexander McCall Smith’s Vision for Nurturing Paternity in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series

  • Nicole L. Willey

Abstract

Alexander McCall Smith’s books are known to millions around the world. The 44 Scotland Street series, Isabel Dalhousie series, and several others are extremely popular, but The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is the most popular, with fifteen books, as of this printing, that have sold over 25 million copies,1 and the series has been translated into more than forty languages.2 Despite, or due to, the series’ wide-spread popularity, Smith’s work has not been given much serious critical attention, and the scholarly work that has been done on Smith often centers on the detective genre. Beyond generic concerns, scholarly attention has focused on the protagonist Mma Ramotswe,3 the setting—Gabarone, Botswana—and postcolonial issues. This chapter aims to bring attention to an understudied aspect of this understudied literature: the model of fatherhood embodied in the character of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. I argue that Matekoni models a nurturing version of fatherhood that is achieved through a hybrid of utilizing African feminist principles and adapting a nineteenth-century version of sentimental masculinity that allows this African father a wide variety of tools that create a “good” father. Matekoni begins by carrying out fairly traditional notions of fathering and gender that are not always effective or fully empowering for the father or the family unit, but as the series progresses he grows as a father, and his sentimentalist reliance on emotion, coupled with his ability to adapt and network, allows for a transformation in his fathering role.

Keywords

Detective Agency Gender Behavior Good Provider Woman Writer Anchor Book 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography

  1. “About the Author.” Alexander McCall Smith.co.uk. Little, Brown Book Group UK and Alexander McCall Smith, 2014. Web. Mar. 25, 2014.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  3. Alcott, William A. The Young Man’s Guide (Boston: Lilly, Wait, Colman, and Holden, 1834).Google Scholar
  4. Alcott, William A. The Young Woman’s Guide (Boston: George W. Light, 1840).Google Scholar
  5. Alcott, William A. Gift Book for Young Ladies; or Familiar Letters on Their Acquaintances, Male and Female, Employments, Friendships, & c. (Buffalo: George H. Derby and Co., 1852).Google Scholar
  6. Baym, Nina, Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America 1820–1870, 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  7. Bettinger, Elfi, “Riddles in the Sands of the Kalahari: Detectives at Work in Botswana.” In Postcolonial Postmortems: Crime Fiction from a Transcultural Perspective, Christine Matzke and Susanne Muhleisen, eds. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), 161–79.Google Scholar
  8. Bhabha, Homi K., “Are You a Man or a Mouse?” In Constructing Masculinity, Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1995), 57–65.Google Scholar
  9. Boydston, Jeanne, Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  10. Bredvold, Louis I., The Natural History of Sensibility (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  11. Brown, Herbert Ross, The Sentimental Novel in America 1789–1860 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1940).Google Scholar
  12. Bueno, Eva Paulino, Terry Caesar, and William Hummel, “Introduction: Naming the Dead Father.” In Naming the Father: Legacies, Genealogies, and Explorations of Fatherhood in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Bueno, Caesar and Hummel, eds. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000), 1–10.Google Scholar
  13. Burstein, Andrew, Sentimental Democracy: The Evolution of America’s Romantic Self-Image (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990).Google Scholar
  14. Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990).Google Scholar
  15. Chapman, Mary and Glenn Hendler, “Introduction.” Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  16. Clark, Suzanne, Sentimental Modernism: Women Writers and the Revolution of the Word (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  17. Coltrane, Scott, Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  18. Counihan, Clare, “Detecting Outside History in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” Mosaic 44.2 (2011): 101–18.Google Scholar
  19. Doucet, Andrea, Do Men Mother? Fathering, Care and Domestic Responsibility. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  20. Douglas, Ann, The Feminization of American Culture. 1977 (New York: Noonday Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  21. Dowd, Nancy, Redefining Fatherhood (New York: NY University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  22. Dymond, Justine and Nicole Willey, “Introduction: Creating the Collection.” In Motherhood Memoirs: Mothers Creating/Writing Lives (Bradford, ON: Demeter Press, 2013), 1–30.Google Scholar
  23. Filene, Peter, “The Secrets of Men’s History.” In The Making of Masculinities, Harry Brod, ed. (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1987), 103–19.Google Scholar
  24. Finnegan, Lesley, “A Completely Satisfactory Detective: The Detective Fiction Genre in Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana Novels,” English Studies in Africa 49.2 (2006): 123–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Alexander McCall Smith.co.uk. Little, Brown Book Group UK and Alexander McCall Smith, 2014. Web. Mar. 25, 2014.Google Scholar
  26. Gentleman, A., Advice to a Young Gentleman, on Entering Society (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1839).Google Scholar
  27. Griswold, Robert L., “Divorce and the Legal Redefinition of Victorian Manhood.” In Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Victorian America, Mark C. Carnes and Clyde Griffin, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 96–110.Google Scholar
  28. Leslie, Eliza. The House Book; or a Manual of Domestic Economy, 10th ed. (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1849).Google Scholar
  29. Leverenz, David, Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  30. Matthews, Glenna. “Just a Housewife”: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  31. Matzke, Christine, “‘A Good Woman in a Good Country’ or The Essence Is in the Pumpkin: Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe Novels as a Case of Postcolonial Nostalgia,” Wasafiri 21.1 (2006): 64–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McGann, Jerome, The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  33. Mekgwe, Pinkie and Alexander McCall Smith, “‘All That Is Fine in the Human Condition’: Crafting Words, Creating Ma-Ramotswe, Pinkie Mekgwe and Alexander McCall Smith in Conversation,” Research in African Literatures 37.2 (2006): 183.Google Scholar
  34. Riemer, James D., “Rereading American Literature from a Men’s Studies Perspective: Some Implications.” In The Making of Masculinities, Harry Brod, ed. (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1987), 289–99.Google Scholar
  35. Sassi, Carla, “Caring for Justice: The Dialogic Imagination as Equitable Practice in Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series,” Textus XXI (2008): 611–28.Google Scholar
  36. Silet, Charles L. P., “The Possibilities of Happiness: An Interview with Alexander McCall Smith, Author of The Full Cupboard of Life and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” Mystery Scene 80 (2003): 29.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, Alexander McCall. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (New York: Anchor Books, 1998).Google Scholar
  38. Smith, Alexander McCall. Tears of the Giraffe (New York: Anchor Books, 2000).Google Scholar
  39. Smith, Alexander McCall. Morality for Beautiful Girls (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2001).Google Scholar
  40. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (New York: Pantheon, 2002).Google Scholar
  41. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Full Cupboard of Life (New York: Pantheon, 2003).Google Scholar
  42. Smith, Alexander McCall. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (New York: Pantheon, 2004).Google Scholar
  43. Smith, Alexander McCall. Blue Shoes and Happiness (New York: Pantheon, 2006).Google Scholar
  44. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (New York: Pantheon, 2007).Google Scholar
  45. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Miracle at Speedy Motors (New York: Pantheon, 2008).Google Scholar
  46. Smith, Alexander McCall. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (New York: Pantheon, 2009).Google Scholar
  47. Smith, Alexander McCall. Bertie Plays the Blues (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2011).Google Scholar
  48. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (New York: Pantheon, 2011).Google Scholar
  49. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (New York: Anchor Books, 2012).Google Scholar
  50. Smith, Alexander McCall. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (New York: Pantheon, 2013).Google Scholar
  51. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail, “Male Trouble.” In Constructing Masculinity, Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1995), 69–76.Google Scholar
  52. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, “African Feminism: A Theoretical Approach to the History of Women in the African Diaspora.” In Women in Africa and the African Diaspora: A Reader, 2nd ed., Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and Andrea Benton Rushing, eds. (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  53. Willey, Nicole. Creating a New Ideal of Masculinity for American Men: The Achievement of Sentimental Women Writers in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  54. Willey, Nicole. “In Search of Our Mothers’ Memoirs: Redefining Mothering through African Feminist Principles.” In Motherhood Memoirs: Mothers Creating/Writing Lives, Justine Dymond and Nicole Willey, eds. (Bradford, ON: Demeter Press, 2013), 233–60.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicole L. Willey 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole L. Willey

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations