Buddies that Matter.

Gender and Friendship

Detailed Table of Contents

Leonie Wanitzek: Eros in the Classroom: Mentor figures, friendship and desire in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The History Boys
Abstract: This article focuses on the characters of Hector and Miss Brodie as two particularly complex examples of inspiring yet ambiguous mentor figures in British fiction, and on their various relationships with colleagues and students. Following a long literary tradition, the different teacher-student relationships in The History Boys and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie encompass aspects of platonic friendship as well as erotic desire. I analyse in detail the erotic triangles and instances of erotic substitutions and doubles in both texts by using and adapting Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of “homosociality”, before examining Miss Brodie’s and Hector’s pedagogical agendas and their interaction with students in the classroom in order to offer an overview of the non-eroticised aspects of the teacher-student relationships in the two primary texts.
Author's Bio: Leonie Wanitzek recently completed her B.A. in English Literature at the Universities of Bayreuth (Germany) and Chester (United Kingdom). This article is based on her B.A. thesis, “Teachers to Remember: Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Alan Bennett’s The History Boys”.
Redfern Jon Barret: "My Stand": Queer Identities in the Poetry of Anna Seward and Thomas Gray
Abstract: When we talk of love in our culture, we usually mean sex. When we talk of desire, we usually mean sex. If we are to fall in love with someone we desire, if we wish to dedicate our lives to someone, live with them, share a bed with them – then we better be having sex with them as well. It is one of the fundamental norms of our society that love is intrinsically bound to sexuality. Here we will examine two eighteenth-century poets. Anna Seward and Thomas Gray each fell in love and each wrote poetry about their love. The love each of them writes about, however, is nonsexual: it is even anti-sexual. Anna Seward and Thomas Gray wrote about romantic friendship. Both poets strongly believed in same-sex friendship and opposed opposite-sex marriage, a queer desire for which each was willing to sacrifice their well-being and reputation.
Author's Bio: Redfern Jon Barrett has a PhD in Literature from the University of Wales. He is the author of Queer Friendship and the speculative fiction novel Forget Yourself and currently lives in Berlin.
Friederike Danebrock: Revisit but not Revise: Friendship and the Romantic Imperative
Abstract: Popular culture apparently feels the need to return, yet again, to Harry’s and Sally’s statement that “men and women can’t be friends” (When Harry met Sally) in another of Hollywood’s romantic comedies. Friends with Benefits, as a close relative of the iconic When Harry met Sally... in terms of theme and plot, is not only revealing with regard to concepts of friendship and/as opposed to romance. The romantic imperative it constructs and represents is certainly a gendered imperative, as well: The crucial issue is the avoidance of romance in a specific constellation, namely cross-sex friendship between two heterosexual individuals – attempts at which, the films suggest, are doomed to failure. In this sense the narratives are driven by (the question of) a “romantic imperative”, that is by debating and depicting the unavoidability of falling in love. When Harry met Sally and Friends with Benefits both participate in the “contemporary phrasings” which, as Victor Luftig puts it, “define male/female friendship according to what it is not”. Concepts such as “‘just friends,’ ‘only friends,’ ‘not lovers’” all “in effect describe friendship negatively” (1) and testify to our lack of conceptions of male-female relations outside heteronormative frameworks. The films’ plots confirm those frameworks in denying alternatives to heterosexual romance. I would like to suggest that at the core of the “friends turned lovers” theme is a particular dynamic of likeness and difference, and that the narration of a process of transition from friendship to romance allows a production of difference that serves certain purposes.
Author's Bio: Friederike Danebrock holds a BA in English and German Studies from the University of Cologne. Her bachelor thesis Fantasies of Distance: Monsters on Post-Millennial Television examined conceptions of subjectivity in recent television series. Her fields of interest include psychoanalytic theory and popular culture as well as the semantic study of fiction.