EN 2011 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Shadia, Palimpsest, Hermeneutics
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Theme “Gender and the Social: Perceptions and Realities”
June 25 - Lecture Notes: An introduction to Gender Studies in the Light of “Shadia and the Western
Narrative of Sex” by Henriette Donner
References to: Leila Aboulela’s “The Museum” and Streaming Video, A Doll House (Yorku Library
eSources Title Keyword Search)
1.Gender never exists in and of itself - as illustrated through “The Museum”
2. “So you think you are liberated…?” Comparison as method used for critical analysis (Hermeneutics)
3. The Texts – our Sources of Knowledge
4. First Forum Topics
First of all, a warm welcome to everyone.
I often wonder, what would happen if we could forget all gender definitions and theories that we have
in our intellectual baggage? What would happen if we treated all the concepts – patriarchy,
heteronormativity, performativity, etc as new, and have to explain, in words used in our ordinary daily
communications, what they mean and why. Please bear with me as I try to do just that, though I may
1. Gender – never exists in and of itself, as illustrated through “The Museum.
I entitled the lecture “Shadia and the Western Narrative of Sex”, because Aboulela writes “The
Museum”, against the grain of the Western narrative of Sex. The Western narrative is one of an ongoing
liberation through increased sexual knowledge. The free dissemination of sexual information, education
and knowledge go hand in hand with the liberation from sexual tradition and morality. She writes
“against’ or as palimpsest across this liberational narrative.
A classic liberation text may be seen in Ibsen’s “A Doll House”. The play is rather explicit about
masculine association of sexual arousal as equivalent to a surge of power and status. Torwald’s male
sexuality shows Ibsen avant garde (as storm troopers are) in speaking openly about sexual attraction. It
is avant garde in seeing Nora as a human woman rejecting her gender. Ibsen takes gender as a human
quality that may be altered in content.
Aboulela seems to establish a very different kind of narrative, though the story also presents the
inherently ambiguous meaning of gender. Her protagonists, separated by “sex”, by “class” and by
language, script… are nevertheless connectable and connecting – and connecting is precisely Aboulela’s