Thursday, 23 May 2013

From liminal spaces: androgyny/androgynous positions in literature and contemporary cultures

“Two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain, the man predominates over the woman and in the woman’s brain, the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is when the two live in harmony together, spiritually cooperating.”
- Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1922).
As Carl Jung adequately put it, “animus is within women as their repressed masculinity and anima is within male as their repressed femininity.” A classic, enduring example of this is the titular deity Ardhanarishvara, symbolising the amalgamation of Shiva and Parvait, the masculine and feminine energies of the universe, and demonstrating how the latter is inseparable from the former. This androgynous principle may also be located in the works of Virginia Woolf, a Modernist for whom androgyny serves as a metaphor to indicate acumen that is luminous, creative, and unconstrained by parochialism and grievances: for her, a purely feminine or purely masculine mind cannot create or generate a great work of art, a truly incandescent mind being one which is not limited by narrow prejudices.
Of course, far more than in so-called canonical or high culture, gender is being redefined – gender bending as it is known – in what is called popular culture. From the early 1920s, figures like Louise Brooks have been seen as popularising themselves as flappers by virtue of their bobbed haircuts and raw sexuality. Throughout the twentieth century, performance artists like Annie Lennox, Michael Jackson and Boy George have, through their works and the sheer preponderance of their persona, fused the masculine with the feminine in ways which have given an unsurprising leeway to the androgynous in contemporary urban vocabulary. In our own times, the likes of Justin Bieber and Kailash Kher – allowing for the injustice of this medley – too may be seen as gender bending in interesting and insightful ways.
Ultimately, it is this sense of bending, of fusion, which this issue of Literophile is interested in. For Issue 2, Volume 6, we invite original and annotated papers and/or semi-academic articles and commentaries of not more than 3,000 words on androgyny in literature and the performative arts in the century past and present by the 15th of July, 2013. Submissions, which must be mailed in MS word format to, may focus on, but need not be limited to, the following:
  • Androgyny and Bi: convergences, if any
  • Androgyny as (literary and/or performative) narrative technique
  • Ardhanarishvara: myth and comics        
  • Androgyny: third gender?
  • “Baby, baby, baby ohh!”
  • Cross-dressing and Comedy Circus: androgyny and typecast
  • Male gaze: gay = feminine ≠ androgynous?
Please note that papers must be annotated in accordance with MLA regulations. Contributors must also submit short bio-notes – not more than 300 words – along with submissions. Contributors will be intimated by last week of July regarding acceptance/rejection.

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