Michèle Schaal, Iowa State University
(Punk Will Destroy) Heteropatriarchal Fatherhood
Location: Zoom Meeting
FRANCE AND THE WORLD , Mahindra Humanities Center Seminar Series
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Until her fourth novel Teen Spirit (2002), Virginie Despentes had featured women as protagonists, depicting their ambiguous relationship to femininity and heteropatriarchy’s impact on their lived experiences and identities. In Teen Spirit, and through the first-person perspective of the marginalized thirty-year-old Bruno, Despentes explores how men are impacted by heteropatriarchal gender role socialization as well. More specifically, she portrays masculinity and fatherhood as a dynamic performance, plagued by persistent or romantic gender-based conventions and expectations. Nevertheless, Despentes’s narrative also attempts to define gender and parental roles anew, especially by infusing them with punk-rock principles. This presentation examines how paternity seems, at first, to contribute to and validate Bruno’s performance of hegemonic masculinity. Still, Bruno’s self-reflexivity on fatherhood exposes and interrupts his very performance of manliness. He grasps that he, even if unintentionally, perpetuates dichotomous gender identities and heteropatriarchy’s implicit hierarchy. As a result, Bruno attempts to create an alternative gender, parental, and familial identity for himself and his daughter Nancy, based on his experience with punk-rock subculture.
Michèle A. Schaal is Associate Professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies at Iowa State University. She specializes in Virginie Despentes’s work, as well as contemporary French feminisms and women writers, with a current emphasis on essays and manifestos. Dr. Schaal is the author of Une Troisième vague féministe et littéraire (Brill, 2017) and the co-editor, together with Dr. Arline Cravens, of the first scholarly volume dedicated to Despentes for the Rocky Mountain Review (2018). She also co-edited, with Prof. Adrienne Angelo, a special issue on “Contemporary “Feminisms” for French Cultural Studies (2020). Her recent publications include From Actions to Words: FEMEN’s Fourth-Wave Manifestos (French Cultural Studies) and Overstepping and Blurring Boundaries: Queer(ing) Autofiction in Wendy Delorme’s La Mère, la Sainte et la Putain (Transgression(s) in Twenty-First-Century Women’s Writing in French, Brill). Dr. Schaal is currently working on a monograph titled The Art of Genre- and Genderbending: Virginie Despentes’s Authorial Politics, to be published by Peter Lang in 2023.