Gender, Genre, and the Myth of Human Singularity
Nicole Tabor, assistant professor of English at Moravian College, can trace her fascination with categorization back to her childhood, a time she spent literally growing up in a library. Her new book, Gender, Genre, and the Myth of Human Singularity highlights three significant modernist literary works, discussing the diverse ways these texts were “lawbreakers.”
In literary works, the law of genre – generic boundaries determined by institutions and conventions of art and literature – reacts to threats of impurity. Tabor’s Gender, Genre, and the Myth of Human Singularity, published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, explores in detail James Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts and Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, which cast away time-honored gender and genre laws, thus challenging the discourses of power. This violation of laws creates a duality in which play/novel and female/male are intertwined. Women behave as men, men as women, plays act as novels, and so forth. In this way they challenge expectations about categorization: literary, social and otherwise.
Beginning with Joyce and continuing with Woolf and Stein, Tabor’s book examines the intersections of these various experiments in hybridity, analyzing and historicizing literary techniques and methodologies – and their consequences.
“Conceptually, I have always been passionate about the connection between gender and genre,” said Tabor. She then noted the hybridity in her own background, starting her career in the entertainment/theatre industry before transitioning to her “calling” as a teacher and professor. “I am drawn to this notion of historicizing the slippage between genres, so the texts in this book are from the 1920s and 1930s and are hybrid in that they contain formal features of both plays and novels. They also include characters who do not neatly fit into categories of male and female. Some of these hybridic texts mark an anxiety regarding the high stakes Nazi threat of hegemonic racial/ethnic categories. One of my concerns is the fixed categories themselves, and the power relations which they encode.”
Taken together, Tabor said, these three texts offer diverse ways to make meaning of generic hybridity, at times complementary, at other times discordant. “These texts by Joyce, Woolf, and Stein hybridize fiction and drama, creating a new communal language that goes beyond strict classification by genre or gender,” she added.
Additionally, Gender, Genre, and the Myth of Human Singularity is a part of Lang’s Studies on Themes and Motifs in Literature, a series designed to advance the publication of research pertaining to themes and motifs in literature. Tabor’s book is the 113th in the series, which is held in libraries around the country.
Tabor also credits her Moravian College students for providing her “moments of synergy.” “The students here are very eloquent and inspiring,” she explained. “Many of the ideas for this book, and also my current manuscript, are really inspired by the wonderful research done by our students. For me there is an important synergy between this book, my current research, and what we do in the Moravian classroom.”
Tabor is currently at work on a manuscript titled Subject Lines: The Monologic Single Subject in Multicultural American Drama by Women, which she describes as “organically connected to the college community as well as syllabus design and construction.”
“Being a faculty member at Moravian, it’s really the best of both worlds,” she explained. “You are allowed, and really strongly supported, to do research and engage in national and transnational critical conversations, but you also are part of a pedagogical community that values critical thinking and argumentative writing. It is a gift to be in the Moravian classroom with such a smart discourse community. The term ‘discourse community’ is central to my teaching philosophy. I think our students have so much to teach us and to learn from one another.”
Tabor concluded that working with students who are eager to learn, to challenge, and to “ask difficult questions rather than seek easy answers really makes you think about your own research in new and exciting, dynamic ways.”
After graduating from Smith College in 1995, Nicole Tabor worked in theatre and film in San Francisco and New York. She was a member and Development Director for Unconditional Theatre Company and has directed plays by Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, and others. She also worked in television in New York City, serving as a production manager. Dr. Tabor received her M.A. (2005) and Ph.D. (2009) in English from the University of Oregon.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America’s sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College’s website at www.moravian.edu.