Posts Tagged: Gender and Sexuality

Gender seminar – day 4

After going to bed at half past 2 yesterday (on the 11th as this is written on the 12th) it was a pretty shattering experience hearing 14 sets of mobile alarms from 7 am to 8.30. I dragged my tush over to the breakfast feast that was awaiting in the canteen and drank about 14 cups of herbal tea. ‘Luckily’, day 4 was not so hectic and jammed with events.

One lecture by post.doc. Henrik Jøker Bjerre on the philosophical thought’s problems with gender, and an historical overview of gender and feminisms from the 70’s to the 10’s by Mette Moestrup. And the day was finalized with an hour of singing from the folk high school songbook in the meeting hall.

The lecture by Henrik Jøker Bjerre was intense and packed with ideas on the problem with thinking gender. He based his lecture on two main foci – that of Lacan‘s ‘Encore’ and Lilian Munk Rösing’s ‘Kønnets katekismus’. There was again as with Munk Rösing’s lecture a whole lot of Lacan’s idea of the Other – understood as when you define yourself by positioning yourself against the Other, and in doing so you risk excluding and subordinating the Other. In this case the man’s gaze upon the woman, inscribing her to specific traditional roles, both of religious, secular and biological forms. The critique is that instead of acknowledging the Other, you overlook the Other’s otherness, in order to inscribe onto the other your own desire and understanding of the Other as a way of gaining control. In the lacanian notion, you can never know yourself completely, and should never try to create gender in one’s own image. Bjerre criticized the notion of discussing gender problems either with using non-gender logic or a polarization of the two sexes, whereas he sees a possibility in recognizing the difference between genders – the Otherness of each other – as a way of transgressing the deep problematic function of inscribed and traditional gender roles.

Moestrup’s lecture was interesting in the sense that I was introduced to a fascinating woman I had not heard of before: Hannah Wilke – a performance artist who used her body as a tool for her ‘message’. See more on her here. Maybe I was too tired at this point, but I couldn’t really sink into the lecture she gave, but she spoke a lot about the lies which we reproduce over and over again about gender and it was also here that I became aware of Cixous who wrote ‘The laugh of Medusa’ which is now officially on my ‘to read after seminar’-list.

The introduction to Wilke coupled with the lecture about queering by Dag Heede made me think of another female artist, whom I am fascinated by; namely Frida Kahlo. It was especially when Moestrup talked about female artists and the question of historical hierarchisation between the sexes, where woman is object/form and man is subject/artist. Because what sometimes happens when woman decides to be artist; she uses herself and thus becomes both subject and object. This is true of Frida Kahlo, who spent most of her time portraying herself in various situations – situations, that were both painful (as the painting of her in a hospital bed after a recent abortion), and mysterious (where she combines nationality, her Mexican heritage, in with the political ideology and gender). Below are a couple of her paintings.

In the evening a bunch of us met in the lecture hall and sang songs from the folk high school songbook, which was very cozy although I hardly knew the songs we were singing. It didn’t matter, because I started to get a nostalgic feeling towards my time at my ‘ungdomshøjskole’ that I spent half a year at, way back in 1999. Songs are a very strong traditions at folk high schools, the whole ritual of singing is well embedded in everyday life. And it was so weird because the head of this school reminded me so much of my old headmaster where I was, somehow it’s the folk high school way.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1940. See discussi...

Image via Wikipedia

Frida Kahlo - Miscarriage in Detroit

Gender seminar – day 3

(Introduction: some of this is written on day 4, because my laptop died on me before I had a time to finish it, and so it will not, as later stated, be a short post.)

Yet another day packed with activities. Today, three of the nominees for the Montana literary prize were introduced to us – Harald Voetmann’s ‘Vågen’, Hans Otto Jørgensen’s ‘Sæt Asta fri’ and Majse Aymo-Boot’s ‘Ødelæggelserne 1-11’. Then Lilian Munk Rösing held a lecture on Antichrist titled “To free (oneself from) mother’s desire”. After dinner we went to listen to the panel discussion of the nominees and later this evening we are going to a reading and a concert. As my computer is dying due to lack of juice, and every socket in the room is leased on a more or less ongoing basis, this will be a short post.

Lilian Munk Rösing’s lecture was really interesting and a very different take on the movie so many have either had physical or/and emotional reactions of a very loud character. So many have criticized von Trier and seen a clear misogynistic message in the movie. Rösing proposes a different stanze which bases itself in the tension between the bestial/brutal and the beautiful/pleasing, rather than seeing the movie as an image of nature versus civilization. She reads the movie as a dream, an in-between place where tragedy lies between two deaths; the social and the physical. There is of course lacanian/freudian psychology all over the lecture, but since I am prone to this myself I don’t mind it one bit 🙂 One of the things she lays emphasis on, which I also felt was a strong point in the movie, was the (excuse the choice of wording) nature of the anti-romantic universe. We are beyond the understanding of nature as essentially good and welcoming to humans, and in its place is nature as indifferent. There is no meta-order, so everything is a possible sign. And von Trier’s movie is a continuous string of signs that can keep its viewer up and scheming for hours.

The presentation of the three nominees for Montana’s literary prize was informative, packed with laden sentences and well articulated views to say the least. So much that I had a cold sweat just thinking about standing up and asking a question in front of these übermenschens of cultural intelligentsia. You are really on your toes the whole time, and at the same time there is so much room here for different views and thoughts on the same subjects. It is so interesting to see how different people interpret something you have fixated on for a while.

Montana literary prize podium pre-presentation

In the evening there were readings by different authors – a pure joy to sit and listen to the rhythmic voices, I am a huge fan of readings. Among others we heard two of the nominees for the Montana literary prize. Harald Voetmann read from his latest ‘Vågen’ and Pia Juul from her ‘Radioteatret’. After this there was a concert with She’s a Show. I cannot really say anything that will adequately sum up the atmosphere, but it was good, highly recommendable, and an experience. It was rhythmical, an exploration of the voice, a tribute to the great Sappho, mixed with animalistic sounds, electronic beats, a summoning, chanting. At one point Mette Moestrup was like Little Black Riding Hood playing on an owl-inspired instrument singing ‘white milk from the evil breast’ (whoosh!). The green fairy and romantic grand piano play was mixed in with words summoning up images of liquids, drunkeness, volmit, and bush. It was really hard listening to this truly beautiful music, so melancholic, sweat and naive, against the brutal recognition of a drunken haze where your super-ego has left the building. Again, truly an experience.

She's a show

She's a show

And now it’s time to return to day 4 of my adventure into gender.

Gender seminar – Day 1

9.30 a.m: Frantic re-packing, hauling sweaters and hairdryer out of one bag into decidedly larger bag. Have to be on train at 11. No sweat, I even managed to eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and throw in an extra pair of shoes and two packets of gum. I am multi-task genius.
11 a.m.: Train platform is overcrowded to the point that I am afraid people in mass numbers will fall on the tracks if someone sneezes. Board in wrong end of train which means I have to get out at later station and run frantically alongside train to no. 21-22, where I have to stand up for the remainder of my 3 hour trip.

So what’s the hubbub?
I am currently at Testrup Højskole attending a seminar on gender in literature. I decided to sign up around Christmas time and today the day has finally arrived. The schedule looks really promising and I feel the nostalgic vibe of ‘højskolestemning’ in the air. People are all here for one reason – to debate, discuss, listen and challenge each other.

Mads Eslund and Christian Dorph, the course leaders, started the debate with positioning themselves in two different directions. But they both had good points on feminism, the blurry lines of gender, biological versus social constructions in gender and how literature can display or talk about gender.

Lars Bukdahl

10 p.m. – Lars Bukdahl, critic, author, critic and editor, gives us a summoning up of the year 2010 in books. As well as being immensely passionate, very buzzy on stage and a in dire need of a second mouth to let out all his thoughts, he also possesses a certain infectious stance to literature. He spoke of his role as reviewer, or critic, and described situations of panic or restlessness when confronted with a work that in both ways pleased and puzzled. He talked about the furious women and weak men as tendencies in Danish literature 2010. But rather than just labeling men and women as such, his main focus lies with language – its being as poetic, unraveling, sensuous, hilarious, furious and weak – as means of defining the work of authors.

Tomorrow we will dive into some Michel Foucault and Judith Butler right after breakfast – what a way to digest your tea and buttered buns! 🙂

Good night from the theatre auditorium at Testrup.

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