Gender and Transgression in 20th-Century Britain
Newcastle University, 7th March 2014
Keynote Address: Jim Byatt (St Andrews)
Call for Papers: Chris Jenks finds us to be fascinated and obsessed with transgression. For all that we recognise the distinctions between good and evil or morality and immorality, we are attracted to know more about the desires and acts of those who are evil and immoral. This obsession, it seems, permeates British popular culture. From the 12-year-long ban imposed upon Ulysses (serialised 1918-1920, published 1922) in the USA on account of its profanities in 1921, or the attempts to ban Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) in the UK because of its depictions of sex, to the constant resurfacing of Myra Hindley in popular song, portraiture, film and television, British popular culture depicts a vast array of transgressions. Linked to all of these representations of transgression, is gender. In D. H. Lawrence’s novel, the relationship between Lady Chatterley and the gamekeeper is unacceptable not only on account of its explicit depictions, but also the status of Lady Chatterley: a married, upper-class woman whose desire for sexual gratification from the lower-class Oliver is perhaps the greatest transgression of all. In addition, for the US Government that declared Ulysses obscene, it was Molly Bloom who was most unacceptable. Instances of this relationship between gender and transgression are also evident elsewhere: video game franchises like Grand Theft Auto (1997 – ) in which men are rulers of the underworld and women are prostitutes or other subservient characters, the television series Bad Girls (1999) which celebrated female transgression, the changing sexual politics between men and women across the James Bond franchise, and the banning of ‘Relax’ (1983) by Frankie Goes to Hollywood on BBC Radio 1. The link between gender and transgression is integral to both representing and understanding the controversy that surrounds popular works. To add to Jenks’ conclusion: we are both obsessed by transgression and the transgressor’s gender.
In this symposium we intend to consider how representations of transgressive acts are linked to gender, asking whether crimes are more punishable depending on the gender of the criminal, if certain transgressive behaviours are more acceptable for one gender than another, or if it is possible for transgressive acts to be represented without issues of gender being at the forefront of that representation. Tracing examples across the twentieth century, we will critically examine the extent to which the boundaries of social acceptability have changed, or remained the same; and for which gender, if any, they have changed.
We invite 300-word abstracts (for 20-minute-long papers) on any topic relating to gender and transgression; possible topics might include, but are not limited to:
• Autobiography and Biography
• Banned and Censored Media
• Celebrity Culture
• Film and Television
• Internet and Online Media
• Music and Music Video
• Sex and Sexuality
• Video Games
Submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st December 2013