MA in Gender Studies – Profiles MA in Gender Studies – Profiles

Professor Yvonne Tasker – Course Director

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

My teaching and writing explores gender in popular culture. My books cover gendered aspects of Hollywood cinema (Spectacular Bodies, 1993; Working Girls, 1998; The Silence of the Lambs, 2002), the ways in which feminism forms part of popular culture (Interrogating Postfeminism, 2007) and explores the ways in which media makes sense of an age of austerity (Gendering the Recession, 2014). I’ve undertaken historical and archive work on the representation of military women (Soldiers’ Stories, 2011) and am working currently on a project around British filmmaker Jill Craigie.

Why is Gender Studies important?

The Humanities consider the characteristics of human history, thought and culture; Gender Studies poses some fundamental questions for the humanities about the sort of history we teach and learn, and the stories we live by. Gender is a powerful system of meaning, one which intersects with other differences such as race, ethnicity and class. Studying gender provides a way to understand – and to challenge – the circulation of ideas about what it is to be male and female, how this changes over time and how these ideas relate to power and (in)equality.

Professor Tasker organises the Gender Studies Dissertation.

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Dr Liz Powell – Course Director

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

I am interested in the ways in which gendered discourses shape our understanding, and experience of traumatic events. I have explored this in relation to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the broadcast media’s narration of those events in relation to a perceived ‘crisis of masculinity’. More recently, I have been researching how notions of ‘traditional’ femininity inform a popular understanding of breast cancer and how this, in turn, might impact on women’s individual experiences of the disease. Crucially, in both these areas, traumatic events are used to work-through, and attempt to resolve, cultural anxieties about the instability of binary gender identities.

Why is Gender Studies important?

Gender Studies is an important field because so many of our interactions with the world around us occur within a gendered framework. Gender Studies seeks to better understand how this framework informs our experience of ourselves and others, and critique the ways in which it reproduces inequalities of power, and opportunity. This requires Gender Studies scholars to look at the historical foundations of current social, cultural, and political issues relating to gender, as well as looking at how work in this area might facilitate positive change for the future.

Dr Powell organises the Study in Gender Module with Dr Karen Schaller.

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Dr Victoria Cann

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

I specialise in youth gender identities and I am currently writing my first book Girls Like This: Boys Like That about how gender is reproduced in youth taste cultures. In my research I examine the lived realities of gender as performance and use feminist methods to explore notions of ‘gender appropriate taste’. I am especially interested the devaluation of the feminine and the effect that this has on girls and boys’ lives, as well as the impact that the gender binary has on queer youth.

I am also committed to the use of feminist tools in the resistance to the neoliberalisation of higher education.

Why is Gender Studies important?

Gender Studies is important not only because we are all implicated in the gendered dynamics of power on a day-to-day basis, but also because it requires us to think critically and confront difficult truths about the world around us. Gender Studies is one of the few truly interdisciplinary fields of academic interrogation, and I am particularly interested in the liberatory potential of Gender Studies, especially its ability to give us to the tools through which to enact real political change. 

Dr Cann organises the Feminist Research Methods Module with Dr Helen Warner.

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Dr Helen Warner

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

I teach the optional module Gender and Power which explores the link between feminist theory and activism. It uses real world examples of gender-based activism to examine the ways in which feminist theories are mobilised in public life. My current research focusses on gendered forms of labour in the creative industries. In the past, I have published in the areas of gender, identity, fashion and celebrity culture.

Why is Gender Studies important?

Gender is the one of the most powerful organising concepts in society. It shapes the architecture of buildings, our understanding of bodies, and virtually all aspects of our social, political and economic lives.  Critically analysing the ways in which gender operates is crucial for anyone seeking to address social inequalities and affect change. 

Dr Warner organises the Gender and Power Module and collaborates on the Feminist Research Methods Module with Dr Victoria Cann.

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Dr Rachael McLennan

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

My research interests focus on representations of youth and ageing in American culture, covering a broad historical period: from the 1950s to the present.  I explore such representations in fictional and autobiographical narratives (not necessarily, but most often literary) about and by girls and women. I am interested in stories told by and about female experience because of what they tell us about constructions of gender in America, and because they reveal how those constructions may be endorsed or resisted. 

Why is Gender Studies important?

Gender Studies is important because it enables every one of us to be attentive to the ways in which constructions of gender affect all aspects of all our lives. It allows us to reflect on and challenge some of the ways those constructions can work to limit opportunities and behaviours. As such, it is a very powerful example of the ways in which academic study has 'real-world' implications.

Dr McLennan organises the Good Good Girls and Good Bad Boys? American Fictions of Innocence Module.

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Dr Hannah Hamad

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

I specialise in Anglophone cultures of feminist and postfeminist popular film and television, but with related interests in cultures of stardom and celebrity, especially from the perspective of gender, race and ethnicity. I recently begun working in the field of feminist media history, with particular focus on the relationship between women in UK media and feminist activism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Why is Gender Studies important?

The work of this inter-disciplinary field of study is important because it deals directly with cultural manifestations of social experiences of gender relations and gender roles. An informed and critical understanding of this crucial social and cultural issue is essential to the responsible practice of 21st century citizenship. Gender is a global and universal issue, and one which informs the practice of everyday life for all. As such, it is the responsibility of scholars, through fields of study like this, to critically interrogate social and cultural (among other) understandings and articulations of gender, with a view to producing more informed, critical, humanist and inquisitive 21st century citizens.

Dr Hamad organises the AMA Feminisms and Television from Wonder Woman to Hannah Horvath Module.

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Dr Francisco Costa

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

My areas of specialism lie primarily in the study of the construction and representation of queer identities, particularly non-normative masculinities. My work weaves through literature, queer theory, cultural studies and theatre and performance studies. Using discourses on gender and sexuality as paradigmatic examples, the central aim of my work is to explore forms of non-normative sexual identities and gender performance that are seemingly ‘free’ of the demarcations and confines of ‘compulsory’ heterosexual configurations and question how non-normative masculinities present queer challenges to hegemonic heteronormativity.

Why is Gender Studies important?

In this still young twentieth first century, gender studies presents itself as a key interventionist area of study, which aims to resist to essentialist binarisms that merely re-enforce conventional power relations and hierarchies. Through the study of gender and sexuality and by approaching identity as multiple and unstable, we can challenge oppression and prejudice and present new and productive possibilities and perspectives that encourage the exposition of ‘difference.’

Dr Costa organises the Critically Queer: Sex, Gender and Sexuality Module.

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Dr Karen Schaller

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

I work on theory and discourses of emotion, feeling and affect, and build on feminist scholarship to show how literary theory and criticism mobilise affective economies that are – as feminism reminds us – also always gendered. I connect emotion as an ‘improper’ object for literary theory and criticism with other kinds of affective improprieties or impolitic passions: critically neglected women writers, the short story, critical-creative methodologies, and affective pathologies. At postgraduate level I teach an MA ‘Fiction ‘after’ Modernism?: Re-reading the 20th Century’, and I  supervise PhDs on empathy, healthcare and contemporary literature; trauma; and the ‘island’ as a gendered figure. My teaching and research experiments with methodologies that enable us to realise the affective encounters that constitute critical interest.

Why is Gender Studies important?

Without gender studies we wouldn’t be able to read and challenge the intellectual histories that shape our stories about our pasts and we wouldn’t recognise the political narratives that constitute the possibilities of the lives we live now. Most contemporary scholarship is indebted to the work that we collect under the term ‘gender studies’ and it is important that we don’t allow that intellectual history to be treated as an artefact belonging to the past. Our lives are gendered: by studying gender we can encounter, challenge and I hope resist the politics of living now.

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Dr Becky Fraser

What is your Gender Studies area of specialism?

My research and teaching primarily concerns the intersections and articulations of gender, race, and class in 19th century America. I am particularly interested in the lived experiences of women and men who American society historically designated as “other” and the ways in which racial stereotypes were covertly challenged through everyday acts of resistance. As an historian based in American studies I employ a variety of sources for research and teaching including archival material, historical fiction, biography and autobiography. 

Why is Gender Studies important?

Gender studies is vital to how we understand the complexities and contestations of power and privilege in society. Intersecting with race, class, and age (among other things) we need to be alert to those power dynamics at both a micro- and macro- level both in contemporary society and in different historical and temporal contexts. In order to challenge this, we must be able to recognise and understand these mechanism in all of its forms in order to challenge and resist it.

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