Centre for Women's and Gender Research

Masculinity in Contemporary Literature and Music (KVIK206)

In spring 2024, the theme for KVIK206 Gender and Sexuality in a Global Context will be "Masculinity in Contemporary Literature and Music".

Photo of painting of a nude standing male
Académie masculine, École française, 1890.
Public domain - Wikimedia Commons

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Theme description for KVIK206, spring 2024

How is the world shaped by stories and images of masculinity?

Masculinity has long been perceived as the norm of human experience, in ways that have made its forms seem somewhat gender neutral, but the twentieth century brought masculinity into focus as a gender that can and should be interrogated. In current debates, norms of masculinity are related to a range of problems, spanning from international warfare to school dropout rates, while the solutions suggested differ substantially. Some argue for a resurrection of patriarchal masculinity, while others encourage new forms of masculinity, or work to transcend gender’s binaristic markings.

The course “Masculinity in Contemporary Literature and Music” allows you to explore the meaning and significance of different forms of masculinity, from the vantage point of contemporary fiction, poetry, song lyrics and music performances.

We will discuss masculine norms, relations and symbolic connotations in fiction, essays and poetry by Jeanette Winterson, Ross Gay, Jonas Hassen Khemiri and Paul B. Preciado, in light of influential gender theory. We will also explore the gendering of genres and discourses of authenticity in contemporary popular music across a range of genres, from pop music to hip-hop and metal. Drawing on theories on forms of masculinity, we will interrogate a variety of popular music performances, by Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Pharell Williams as well as queer and black female performers such as Lil Nas X and Missy Elliot.

The seminars will center on masculine relations of care, power, queerness, authenticity and desire. Through careful analysis of diverse cultural texts, we will work to develop our understandings of how masculinity influences the times we live in.