Masculinity as Fiction

  • Ben Knights


This chapter will fall into three parts. In the first, by way of an introduction to the subsequent study of literary texts, I shall explain why I believe attention to narrative could help us to understand the formation and reproduction of masculine identities. In the second, that theme will be developed in relation to the processes of reading and the relations between texts and readers. In particular I shall argue that men need to become resisting readers of those texts addressed to them as men and as representatives of supposedly universal principles. In the third, I shall briefly locate this study itself within the world of the study of English and of literary texts within Higher Education.


Social Constructionist Literary Criticism English Study Literary Text Masculine Identity 
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  1. 3.
    The imperialism of the linguistic paradigm has been challenged from different directions, for example by Fredric Jameson in The Prison House of Language: A Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism (1972).Google Scholar
  2. The appropriation of linguistics by the social sciences has recently been questioned from a linguistic direction by Stephen Pinker, in The Language Instinct: The New Science and Language of Mind (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    An example within a contrasting, humanistic, psychological discourse would be John Rowan’s Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us (London: Routledge, 1990).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    The discussion starts with Barthes’ S/Z. See also Roger Fowler, ‘The Referential Code and Narrative Authority’, in Literature as Social Discourse: The Practice of Linguistic Criticism (London: Batsford, 1981); and Fairclough (1989).Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    A term which has acquied currency in adult education and staff development through the work of Donald Schön. See his The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (London: Temple Smith, 1983).Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    The practices and choices of universities feed back into A-level syllabuses and courses. And indeed, through the work of academics like Brian Cox, into the National Curriculum. See for example Cox, The Great Betrayal: Memoirs of a Life in Education (London: Chapmans, 1992).Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Tony Becher, Academic Tribes and Territories; Intellectual Enquiry and the Cultures of Disciplines, (Buckingham: Open University Press 1989);Google Scholar
  8. Ben Knights, ‘Group Processes in Higher Education: The Uses of Theory’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 20, no. 2 (1995).Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    Another useful item here is Terence Hawkes’ essay on the Shakespearian scholar Dover Wilson (himself a member of the Newbolt Committee). See ‘Telmah’, reprinted in That Shakespeherian Rag: Essays on Critical Process (London: Methuen, 1986).Google Scholar
  10. 29.
    A. P. Rossiter’s theory of ambivalence – which in many ways set the scene for 1950s criticism — seems to me to represent an interesting extension of this passion for rising above historical struggle. ‘That is what I mean by “Ambivalence”: that two opposed value-judgements are subsumed, and that both are valid (i.e. for that work of art or the mind producing it). The whole is only fully experienced when both opposites are held and included in a “two-eyed” view (‘Ambivalence: the Dialectic of the Histories’, reprinted in Angel With Horns, London: Longman, 1961).Google Scholar
  11. 33.
    This hierarchy reproduces a traditional gesture in the history of beliefs about the relation between gender and culture. One of theory’s favourite patriarchs is discussing the shift from matriarchy to patriarchy as represented in Aeschylus’ Oresteia: this turning from the mother to the father points in addition to a victory of intellectuality over sensuality - that is, an advance in civilisation, since maternity is proved by the evidence of the senses while paternity is a hypothesis, based on an inference and a premiss. Taking sides in this way with a thought-process in preference to sense perception has proved to be a momentous step. (Freud, Moses and Monotheism [1938] Part il, C)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ben Knights 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Knights
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TeessideUK

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