Rethinking Postfeminism (and maybe even recent Australian literary history): Australian Chick Lit as the Novel of Feminine Economies of Signs and Spaces

Presented by Dr Margaret Henderson

Date: Friday 5 October, 2018
Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 

Abstract:

Chick lit, the popular fiction genre that humorously narrates the love and work travails of a young(ish), relatively independent heroine, is typically seen as the postfeminist genre, “establishing the salient characteristics of postfeminism in the popular consciousness” (Gamble 63), most notably, conspicuous consumption, updated mores of heterosexual romance, and a contemporary female ambivalence regarding feminist freedoms. These qualities, along with chick lit’s talent for savvy marketing, has led to criticism, such as Beryl Bainbridge’s description of it as “a froth sort of thing” (2001), or Angela McRobbie’s use of Bridget Jones’ Diary as exemplifying postfeminism’s disavowal of feminism (2007). As part of a longer study of Australian postfeminist culture, this paper’s discussion of Australian chick lit, however, uncovers a more substantial form of the insubstantial, with implications for how we think about postfeminism and, to a lesser extent, recent Australian literary history.

This paper will historically contextualise chick lit in terms of the category of women’s writing, provide an overview of the characteristic features of Australian chick lit, and then discuss the local form of the genre as an updating of the working girl novel.

I argue that, in a dynamic we see repeated across Australian postfeminist culture, Australian chick lit seductively but not uncritically integrates the legacy and aftermath of second wave feminism into the neoliberal project, establishing a politically and historically significant literary genre that troubles the orthodoxies of postfeminism. Its humorous and relatively ethnically diverse narratives of female “cultural intermediaries”  (Bourdieu 1984, Featherstone 2007) perfectly capture Australia’s insertion into circuits of post-Fordist capitalism, termed by Scott Lash and John Urry as the economy of signs and space (4), and the special role allotted to women in these circuits. Australian chick lit, therefore, does more serious political and literary work than is usually granted.

 

Presenter:

Margaret Henderson is currently completing a study of Australian postfeminist culture, with Anthea Taylor, and a study of the American punk writer, Kathy Acker, both to be published by Routledge in 2018-19.  

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Dr Marg Henderson

 

About Research Seminar and Workshop Series

 


The research seminar and workshop series' occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Unless otherwise advertised, the seminars occur on a Friday afternoon from 3-4 pm in the Digital Learning Space (Room 224) in the Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37).

Semester 1, 2019 Seminars & Workshops

 

Friday, 1 March
3pm-4pm

Honours Welcome

Level 6, Michie Building (#9)

 

Friday, 8 March
3pm-4pm

The Media, Populism, and Polarization in the German Context

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Bernhard Goodwin (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) 

Friday, 22 March
4:30pm

Roundtable: On New Dramaturgy

Terrace Room, Sir Llew Edwards Building (#14)

Katalin Trencsényi (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)
Bernadette Cochrane
Kathryn Kelly (QUT)
Stephen Carleton

Friday, 29 March
3-4 pm

Storifying Science: Translating Environment through Ecobiography

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Jessica White
Friday, 12 April
12noon-1:00pm

CSC Exchange

Participatory methods to understand decision-making processes of Filipino rice farmers in the face of climate change

Room 208
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Jaime A. Manalo IV 
Research specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)

Centre for Communication and Social Change
https://www.uq.edu.au/ccsc/

Friday, 12 April
3-4pm

Streaming, disruption and the evolving cultures of use

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner

Friday, 26 April
3-4pm

Journalism by Numbers: What the Census Tells us about Journalists and Journalism since the 1960s

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Prof Tom O'Regan and Catherine Young

Friday, 3 May
3-4pm

The Pedagogy of Listening / Listening to people in the age of investment thinking

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Linje Manyozo (RMIT)

Friday, 10 May
3-4pm

The Sweden of the South: Australia's Eurovision Love Affair

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Chris Hay
Friday, 17 May
4-7pm

Visual Disturbances: An Essay Film

Room214, Otto Hirschfeld Building

Dr Eric Faden (Bucknell University, USA)
Friday, 17 May
3-4pm

Workshop: Tips and insights on applying for non-ARC funding

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

A/Prof Kelly Fielding
Friday, 24 May
3-4pm

Transferring Below-the-line Skillsets Across Creative Indisutries in Early Television

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Alex Bevan

 

Venue

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)