Widening Gender Norms with Literature: Teaching Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Gender in a Sociocultural Language Classroom

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för språk och litteraturer

Abstract: The aim of the essay is to argue why and how the novel "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman can be used to introduce students to gender issues in an English as a foreign language classroom where sociocultural theory is applied. By using authentic literature in the language classroom students can gain insight into social structures and as well as develop their four language skills in different pre-, post-, and while reading tasks. A discourse analysis of the novel's characters using poststructural feminist theory and John Stephens's schema of masculine and feminine gender traits in literature shows that the characters do not conform entirely to either masculine or feminine gender traits. The analysis also shows gendering as a result of masculinity as norm. These results can be used to teach students that there are numerous ways to be male or female and for them to discuss gender perfomativity as well as the norms and structures behind gendering. By teaching "Neverwhere" and gender school can be a social arena where gender not only is constructed, but also deconstructed and gender norms widened with the use of literature.

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