Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Social Inferiority of Males

Ahead of today's lecture on Nick Hornby's representation of failed masculinity and female superiority, read, via the indispensible Arts & Letters Daily, "The Puzzle of Boys." Discuss with your assigned Group, and prepare a five minute analytical reflection.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rob, Barry, Dick: Sexual Selection in action

What does science have to say about why ugly men survive if, as Darwin declares, women chose which men get to reproduce?

A new study explains why we aren't all born with Brad Pitt’s perfectly chiseled features or Angelina Jolie’s pouty lips.... [M]en with greater genetic diversity in areas of the genome relating to disease defense were also rated as more attractive by women. So because these males with greater mutation rates are more likely to mate, they will pass that higher rate on to their offspring, allowing sexual selection to propagate variation through the population, a finding that likely applies to all
This propagation means that peacocks’ tail feathers will
vary in length and that some of us definitely won’t be America’s next top model.

And some of us will be Rob, Barry & Dick....

"Championship Vinyl" in Vancouver

Ideally, we would do a class field trip to the Vancouver branch of "Championship Vinyl," which goes by the name Zulu Records. I myself have almost certainly met Dick there ....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Jane Austen's Popularity

Via Arts & letters Daily, please enjoy this tremendous article in the "Books" section of the New York Times which helpfully riffs on the intensity of enduring popularity of Jane Austen (which would include Helen Fielding's re-vision of Pride & Prejudice in Bridget Jones's Diary) and of the period's fiction more broadly. The author of the article mavels at the hunger for the minutiae of great novels which a new annotated edition of Pride & Prejudice slakes. Yet for all that, the chick-lit appeal remains strong -- perhaps primary.
The reader who does not know a farthing from a guinea, it’s safe to say, will nonetheless grasp the great drama of attraction and repulsion that plays out between Darcy and Elizabeth. The cut and thrust of their conversation is timeless. Generations of young women who do not know the first thing about an entailed estate or a quadrille will recognize in Austen’s heroine a kindred spirit, a contemporary, a valued ally in the eternal war between the sexes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Freemales' and Bridget Jones

One cultural context for our present course of study will be explored in seminar this week. The present version of Bridget Jones is, mass media (here, Britain's Daily Mail) declares, the "freemale":
The number of single women has hit an all-time high, a study has shown - and most of them aren't looking for love.
They apparently choose to be alone, and rejoice in a life where they can spend time and money as they wish.
This new breed of singleton has been dubbed a 'freemale', because she chooses her freedom over a family.
Note the use of the Bridget Jones's Diary term in the article. Moreover, this social fact--if it is a fact--accords precisely with Helen Fielding's satire on modern middle-class consumer culture: freemale being simply the extension of self-indulgent capitalist participation:
"[Men are] Bastards!" yelled Jude, slurping her Pinot Grigio.
"Bastards," I yelled through a mouthful of raspberry pavlova mixed with
"Bloody bastards!" shouted Jude, lighting a Silk Cut with the end of
another one.
The article also locates freemales precisely with the class demographic of Helen Fielding's satiric target: middle-to-upper-middle class urban women engaged in the production modes of industrial Capitalism:
Dr Jan Macvarish, a sociologist from the University of Kent and author of a research paper Understanding the Popularity of Living that changes in society have made it more acceptable for women to remain single for longer, and says the trend particularly affects urban and educated females in professional or managerial roles.
Further, the article echoes the sub-text of Bridget Jones's Diary that children are barrier to optimal participation in the Capitalist economy:
'There is also less of a stigma about not having children. Now, these women call themselves childfree rather than childless.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Bridget Jones"-style cooking experience

You remember the scenes in Bridget Jones's Diary where she tries to cook elaborate 'Britsh Home Cooking' dishes from a Delia Smith-type cookbook? ("SUNDAY 19 MARCH").

Here is a real life case, from England's Daily Telegraph.

Judith Woods thought it would be fun to revive the culinary delights of Eliza Smith - the 18th-century's Nigella Lawson - but, oh dear, how wrong can you be.

"Bridget Jones in Paris" - A Blogger

'Petite anglaise' blogger wins sacking case
By Henry Samuel in Paris
An Englishwoman sacked for bringing her employers in Paris into disrepute by writing an internet diary under the pseudonym petite anglaise was awarded £30,000 for wrongful dismissal yesterday. a test case for bloggers in France and beyond, a tribunal concluded that Catherine Sanderson, whose blog is said by some to be the equivalent of "Bridget Jones in Paris", had been dismissed "without real and serious causes". >>more

Bridget Jones & Post-Feminism

Well, here I go! I just found this 'letter to the editor' by Helen Fielding herself in which she explicitly identifies Bridget Jones with post-feminism.
Bridget is not just on a desperate quest to settle down. Like all self-respecting modern women she is struggling to balance her post-feminist independence and economic power with the human, not just female, need to love and be loved.
Whether one approves of Fielding's position is a matter of personal judgement.

[Original Post.]
I came across this article on Bridget Jones' Diary (only the film version, alas) and the post-feminist question:
Bridget Jones. Icon of post-feminist regression and celebration of marriage uber alles? Au contraire.
Neither role model nor nemesis, Bridget Jones is the epitome of the liberated woman - she can match macho in drink, smoke and swearing; she will stand up to anyone; and she takes both reputable career and sexual freedom for granted.

Diary of a 1920s Bridget Jones

Jottings of 17-year-old Ilene Powell show women's obsession with diets and dating is timeless, reports Nicole Martin.
If you thought the angst-ridden singleton epitomised by Bridget Jones was a creation of the Naughty 1990s, think again.
A newly-discovered diary, written in 1925, shows that women 80 years ago were just as obsessed with men, diets and relationships as their modern-day counterparts. The leather-bound journal, written in pencil by 17-year-old Ilene Powell, from Bristol, bears a striking resemblance to the fictional memoirs of Helen Fielding's neurotic thirtysomething heroine.

"Bridget Jones" & "Pride & Prejudice"

Chick-lit author Sarah Sands has this article in today's telegraph online about a new film version upcoming of Pride and Prejudice. She has this to say:

If it is true that there are only four stories, then Pride and Prejudice must be one of them. Poor but proud woman spurns and loves rich, humourless man. Women consistently vote for Pride and Prejudice as their favourite novel, ever. Mr Darcy remains the most romantic figure created, ever.
And also this:

Dignity is perhaps the most important thing in a romantic hero, which is why Hugh Grant was always going to lose out to Firth. The greatest fantasy figures - Mr Rochester, Maxim de Winter, Heathcliff - are all grumpy.
And again this:

They are also, I am afraid to say, men of means. Women can run off with the poor and light-hearted (and usually artistic) - as Dorothea Brooke did when she chose Will Ladislaw, but it was not really very satisfactory, was it? I am still suspicious when women describe their menfolk as "supportive". It usually means economically unsupportive, and they tumble down the romantic league table.

And yet more, this to be relevant when we get to BJD:
Working Title is proud of its contemporary Elizabeth Bennet in Keira Knightley. No bodices and bonnets here. You would not be surprised to see Lizzy rolling a cigarette on the kitchen table. By contrast, Matthew Macfadyen is resolutely period, with a deep voice and breeches.
To which I say, "Cad, Curate or Colin Firth"