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Gendered Fictions

by Wayne Martino, with Bronwyn Mellor
Student book Year10+

Gendered Fictions is intended for secondary school students in Year 10 and above. It is an anthology of texts - nine short stories, a nursery rhyme, an essay and two magazine articles - by a range of quite different writers. The texts are accompanied by activities which apply ideas derived from contemporary literary theory to classroom practice in accessible ways. Although the concepts addressed are frequently complex, the approaches taken are activity-based and encourage involvement from students.

The focus of Gendered Fictions is on how gender is constructed by texts and reading practices; that is on the versions of masculinity and femininity that particular texts might appear to support, or challenge. The first chapter (of five) suggests to students that gender is involved not only in what readers read, but also in how readers read texts, and sets out to demonstrate this through a series of intriguing and generative exercises. The chapter also includes a very useful section on the role of textual commentary in the production of particular readings of text, and a suggested approach to reading for gender.

Chapter two continues its exploration of gendered texts and reading practices through a series of activities constructed around two short stories - ‘Rhinoceros Beetle’ by Susan Hawthorne and ‘Flies to Wanton Boys’ by Michael Wilding - that have proved very popular with students.

The focus in chapter three is on masculinity. It is suggested that in recent years attention has been paid to the need for constraining definitions of femininity to be changed. The possibility that definitions of masculinity might also be in need of change - in the interests of both males and females - has not, it is argued, always been acknowledged. Three provocative texts that can be read as arguing in favour of rejecting ‘traditional masculinity’ are offered for discussion and analysis.

In ‘Becoming a Man’, the fourth chapter, three short stories that deal with relationships between fathers and sons are presented. The first two, ‘The Altar of the Family’ by Michael Wilding, and ‘The Blooding’ by Peter Goldsworthy, deal with relationships between fathers and sons, raise questions about the role that fathers have to play in defining for their sons what it means to be a man, and appear to invite the reader to reject particular versions of masculinity. ‘Goodbye Jenny’ by Penelope Wallace, the third story in the chapter, can be read as less directly addressing similar issues by focussing on relationships among the members of a household.

Finally, in chapter five, there are two stories about women as mothers -‘The Unnatural Mother’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and ‘in the early afternoon’ by Trish McNamara. The final story, ‘Raymond’s Run’ by Toni Cade Bambara, has a younger central character, who is also constructed in the role of nurturer, helping her mother by caring for her brother. Students are asked to analyse how particular versions of femininity which are linked to a capacity for mothering and nurturing are constructed, regulated - and challenged.

Throughout Gendered Fictions, students are encouraged to read intertextually in terms of gender. At times, this is very easy, as with the old adage ‘boys will be boys’ that is drawn upon by more than one text. On other occasions, students are directed to read for less obvious links across texts, for example in terms of the construction of generic characters, such as mothers and fathers, and also in the construction of gender ‘categories’ such as ‘old women’ and ‘young men’.

The texts in Gendered Fictions have proved popular with students, and the accompanying thought-provoking activities encourage lively discussion and analysis of the ways in which gender might be read. Teachers also will welcome the explicit focus on exploring the construction of masculinity via texts and reading practices.

RRP $23.95
A4 96pp ISBN 1 875136 25 8
A Chalkface Press original

Cover illustration: The Merry-Go-Round (1916) Mark Gertler, © Tate Gallery London


USA and Canada: (This title published Fall 2000)
  • NCTE, National Council of Teachers of English
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