Category Archives: Gender and Literature

Lykanthea’s Migration: Music Inspired by Literature
by Sophie L. Nagelberg

Several summers ago, my band, Videotape, was about to play a set at Panda vs. Panda—a warehouse-turned-underground-venue inhabited by members of a shoegaze group called Panda Riot—when Lakshmi Ramgopal introduced herself to me as a member of Love & Radiation, a dark-dance-pop duo. Since then, our collective musical ventures have led us to play together and attend plenty of shows across various Chicago venues. We’ve also become friends.

In the mean time, Lakshmi wrote and recorded a solo album under the moniker Lykanthea. The five-track EP dubbed Migration (July 2014) is full of ambient, droning tones and dissonant chanting. The music is haunting and the lyrics provide an entire narrative based upon texts she came across in researching her dissertation. The more I listened, the more story I discovered. Recently, Lakshmi and I sat down to discuss her album as a literary work. Continue reading

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Mood Surreal: Boris Vian’s L’Écume des Jours
by Julia Fine

PHOTO COURTESY OF WEARETHEFRONTIER.COM

PHOTO COURTESY OF WEARETHEFRONTIER.COM

Boris Vian’s 1947 novel L’Écume des Jours (either Froth on the Daydream or Foam of the Daze in English, depending on your translation) has been called unfilmable, but on July 25th Michel Gondry’s recent cinematic adaptation will open at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 164 N State St. (Take note: friends of Literary Chicago can get a discounted ticket by using the code “LIT.”)

Despite its reputation, this adaptation actually marks the novel’s third appearance on the silver screen. In 1968, French director Charles Belmont released a version called L’Écume des jour, and a Japanese adaptation by director Gô Rijû, called Chloe, came out in 2001. This time around, Gondry is using the English title Mood Indigo—a textual deviation, but a fitting name for a whimsical story that plays across the page like jazz music.

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Writing (Wo)men
by Jess Millman

For sale at www.thatcompanycalledif.com.

For sale at www.thatcompanycalledif.com.

In the third year of my fiction degree, a writing professor flattened one hand on my desk, broke out a sheepish, sidewinding grin, and observed this: “Your female characters would be strong if they weren’t male characters.”

When you’re in a mood to chew over humanity, watch contemporary litcrit discuss gender. You will hear hip, catchy, piecemeal phrases hammered around age-old ideas. Strong female characters. Beta male. Metrosexual masculine. Modern woman.

Years later, I am still asking myself: what the fuck does this all mean?

A darling question of literary interviewers, hurled at male and female authors alike, is “how did you write such believable woman characters?” Or, worse, why – as though multidimensional women are unusual, foreign, inflammatory fare. A precursory Google search will land you discussion panels, writing “tricks,” classes, and handbooks numbering in the hundred-thousands about how to think like a member of the opposite sex. In these forums, we view different people like different planets, each requiring us to strip off our own identities and devise a wild plan-of-entry, inverting everything we know to be normal, simply to see like the opposite sex.

But the issue of writing cross-gender is more nuanced than flinging Bukowski quotations, debating Franzen fiascos, and starting fistfights over Hemingway’s fetishized Indian Venus. It is bigger than just those writers; it outstretches the unabashedly misogynistic or misandristic authors whose characters are not so much free-standing people as they are vehicles for patriarchal stereotypes. Writers of all sexes and genders can, and do, undermine their protagonists in this way without intending to. These subtle briers of sexism are often more harmful than overt attacks, as they sneakily riddle the prose, the diction, and the concept itself with a primary inequality – they spread the sham notion that our approaches to writing women and writing men must be fundamentally different, based on the belief that these two groups share little common ground.

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