The Groningen/Lancaster Exchange
Gender in Cultural Practice: exploring textual and historical forms
The focus of this humanities-based research project is the gendering of cultural expression in literature, religion and the arts. The emphasis will be on the production of gendered categories in the performance and reception of texts. This will be explored through three interdisciplinary topics: sacred and profane identities; home and memory; and city spaces.
The nature and significance of the research proposed:
Much of the pioneering research into gender and culture in recent decades has paid close attention to understanding how femininity and masculinity are constructed in the primary texts of western society, such as religious doctrines, verbal and visual creations, laws and conventions. Building on these foundations, this co-operative research project will concentrate more closely on cultural practice than on basic principles; the aim of the project is to examine the ways in which ideas of gender actively shape our perceptions, responses and customs in the cultural sphere. The focus will thus be on what we have termed “cultural practice”. This means that research under the auspices of this project dealing with, for instance, a literary text will be less concerned with the gender of the writer or the representation of feminine and masculine in the texts, than with issues of gender in production, context, performance, reception and interpretation.
The researchers participating in the project are at work in a range of humanities subject areas: literature, religious studies, philosophy, social history and the arts. This research exchange will capitalise on the long-standing strengths in feminist scholarship at both institutions, and will build upon previous and continuing collaborations among staff. The researchers welcome the opportunity of working across disciplinary boundaries where appropriate, in order to understand and analyse cultural practice. Indeed, they anticipate further constructive interaction between the disciplines at both local and international level as a result of the planned workshops and their associated publications.
The topics of the three workshops (see 6 below) have been chosen to illuminate three key aspects of gender in cultural practice, and to enhance one another in sequence. The first (due to be held in the academic year 2005-6) will take as its subject the idea of gendered identities, and more specifically the ways in which these are given expression in spiritual and artistic modes. This workshop will draw on the strong interdisciplinary connections between religious studies, literature and the arts in Lancaster and Groningen, and will bring together groups of researchers from the two institutions who are already distinguished by their work in this field – the organisers of the forthcoming Lancaster conference on Spiritual Identities (November 2004) and the members of the Groningen interdisciplinary research seminar (theology, philosophy, history and literature) on the representation of individual identity. The interaction of these two groups of scholars, in a workshop focusing specifically on gendered aspects of the expression of selfhood in religious and secular contexts, should result in an important contribution to scholarship.
The second workshop, planned for 2006-7, will take the idea of “sacred and profane identities” from the first workshop as its starting point, and proceed to concentrate on the concept of home as a complex expression of those identities. What is, indeed, meant by “home” and to what extent is it a construct of memory from the perspective of absence or exile? The workshop will investigate a variety of gendered understandings of home – as inner experience, as house, as territorial space, as family, as nation – and consider their impact on spiritual experience and artistic practice.
The third workshop (to take place in 2007-8) will draw on the concepts of identity and place that are central to the two preceding workshops, but move the debate into the urban context. Once again, the emphasis will be on gender in cultural practice, this time as manifested in the complex relationships between the city and that which surrounds it: the country. To what extent is this opposition gendered? What is the role of gender in areas of urban culture such as architecture, open space, philosophical and religious expression, or literary and artistic production? The workshop will develop the work of the inter-faculty group in Groningen teaching a seminar series on ‘Gender and the City’, and will build on research taking place in Lancaster in relevant areas including women’s theatre, the multicultural city, and urban history.
In all three workshops, the research will take as its point of departure a simple dichotomy to be critically examined in the light of gender in cultural practice. In the first workshop, the starting point will be the apparent opposition of religious and secular identities. The second will examine the interaction of presence and absence, or actuality and memory, in the gendered experience of the home. The third workshop will use, and question, the recognised binary relationship of the country and the city in its analysis of gender in the cultural space of the city.
The workshops may thus be seen as forming a coherent series, concentrating throughout on gender and cultural practice within a framework of perceived binaries. They are also designed as a sequence, systematically moving “outwards” from the self and personal identity, via the home in memory and experience, to urban culture and the wider arena of the environment. In all three workshops, the emphasis will be on a range of historical periods, highlighting cultural change across the centuries with regard to forms of gendered practice. Since a great deal of scholarship in the area of gender studies tends to focus on contemporary culture, the historical depth of this workshop series is one of its distinguishing qualities.
The co-operation will take the form of three interdisciplinary research workshops (for full description, see 4 above) on related but distinctive aspects of the central topic:
workshop 1 (2005) – Sacred and Profane Identities: gender and the expression of selfhood
workshop 2 (2006) – Home and Memory: gender and the representation of place
workshop 3 (2007) – City and Country: gender and the practice of urban culture
Each workshop will be preceded by a series of preparatory reading group meetings for staff and postgraduates in each institution, studying theoretical and other appropriate introductory material suggested by those who will contribute to the workshop. The three workshops will each result in an integrated collection of essays to be brought out by a top international publisher. In order to ensure that these publications are coherently constructed and of high quality, there will be editorial meetings in the period between the workshops, during which the revised essays and the scholarly introduction will be discussed and evaluated by the editors and representatives from both institutions.
It is also envisaged that the increased academic contact between the two universities will lead to opportunities for postgraduates to participate in relevant elements of the graduate training programme in the partner institution, and to benefit from expert advice given by colleagues encountered during the workshops. In addition, the research co-operation will give rise to occasional “master classes” for graduate students, taught by guests from the partner university.
Among those who will be participating from Groningen are:
Erica van Boven (Dutch Department / modern literature)
Petra Broomans (Scandinavian Department / women’s literary history)
Liesbeth Brouwer (Frisian and Dutch Department / literary theory)
Marjo Buitelaar (Theology / women’s religious experience)
Mathilde van Dijk (Theology / medieval saints’ lives)
Amanda Gilroy (English Department / feminist and cultural theory)
Jolanta Jastzrebska (Hungarian Department / gender and literature)
Aneke Mulder-Bakker (History Department / medieval women and religion)
Baukje Prins (Philosophy / feminist theory)
Marja van Tilburg (History / women’s studies)
Patrick Vandermeersch (Theology / psychology of religion)
Judith Vega (Philosophy / theories of gender)
Irene Visser (English Department / gender and American writing)
Rina Walthaus (Spanish Department / women and literature )
Helen Wilcox (English Department / early modern literature)
Hetty Zock (Theology / psychology of religion)
Among those who will be participating from Lancaster are:
Rosemary Betterton (Women’s Studies / art history)
Alison Easton (English Department / American literature)
Alison Fell (French Department / 20th century literature)
Alison Findlay (English Department / gender and early modern drama)
Hilary Hinds (English Department / Quaker autobiography)
Maureen McNeil (Women’s Studies / cultural studies)
Kate Newey (Theatre Studies / domestic drama)
Lynne Pearce (English Department / feminist cultural theory)
Deborah Sawyer (Religious Studies / gender and the bible)
Jackie Stacey (Women’s Studies / film and memory)
Jayne Steel (English Department / Northern Irish literature and film)
Alison Stone (Philosophy / feminist theory)
Linda Woodhead (Religious Studies / women in contemporary churches)
The provisional co-ordinators for the three workshops are as follows:
Workshop 1: Marjo Buitelaar (Groningen) and Hilary Hinds (Lancaster)
Workshop 2: Helen Wilcox (Groningen) and Alison Findlay (Lancaster)
Workshop 3: Judith Vega (Groningen) and Kate Newey (Lancaster)
The proposed co-operation between the universities of Lancaster and Groningen in the area of humanities research is based on existing and successful informal co-operation between the two English Departments on gender in early modern English literature. This has taken the form of advice to postgraduates, external examining, guest lectures, and participation in colloquia. Recently the links have also involved the Groningen Faculty of Theology. The Board of the Groningen Research School for the Study of the Humanities (OGWG) supports the idea of enhancing the study of gender in the different areas of cultural practice. To that end, the OGWG project group “Autonomy and ‘new’ dependence in the arts” has developed a special sub-programme on “Gender”. The Board considers that now is the right time to further expand and formalise the co-operation between the universities of Groningen and Lancaster in the area of literature, religious studies, philosophy, social history and the arts (in other words, in the fields represented by the Groningen research school and well matched in Lancaster), while maintaining and further specifying the focus on gender.
|| Home | Undergraduate | Postgrad English | Postgrad Creative Writing |
| Research | Staff | News & Events | Contact Us | Resources for Current Students |