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Lyon professor discusses women and war

Dr. Cori Gabbard, Visiting Professor of English, discussed her ongoing research of gender roles and their portrayals in different eras of literature with the Lyon College community. At the March 13 faculty colloquium, she questioned the beliefs and prejudices commonly held by both modern day scholars and anti-intellectual people. 

Gabbard’s presentation, titled Reversing the Implications: Women & War in Medieval and Post-1900 British Literature, was the third and final lecture of Lyon’s Spring 2020 Faculty Colloquium series because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Gabbard focused on the differences between war and women's identities in medieval and 20th century British literature.

Gabbard based her topic on her graduate dissertation at the Graduate Center University of New York, focusing on a chapter studying the Welsh myth “Math, son of Mathonwy.” 

Gabbard noted that for many people the implications behind humanities research are not always as obvious as research in the sciences. To combat that, she said her project had three primary goals.

She first wanted to emphasize the different nationalities represented in the broad title of British literature, noting that many people tend to equate British with English, so her research includes Welsh, Irish, and Scottish writing. 

Gabbard also calls into question the common assumption that the 20th century is inherently more progressive in its portrayal of gender roles than the portrayals of previous time periods. She argues that medieval literature is more progressive than 20th century literature in their respective analyses of gender roles during wartime. 

She also wanted to break down the way many scholars view medieval as synonymous with outdated or flawed. 

“My work responds to tensions between the medieval and the modern within academia, i.e. the idea that the medieval is backwards and irrelevant,” said Gabbard.

She noted the often strict divides between those who study modern literature and those who study medieval literature. She hopes to help bridge this gap with her research.

Her final goal is to emphasize the importance of studying the humanities in modern day, contrasting how many people view the humanities as useless. She argued that the study of humanities can help contribute to positive social change. 

In her talk, she argued that femininity is often associated with domesticity and masculinity is often associated with conflict. By altering which characters are aligned with this divide--for instance, by associating a female character with conflict-- “Math, son of Mathonwy” illustrates characters as isolated from society itself. 

She used this divide to illustrate the strict binaries held in other aspects of society, particularly the segregation of men and women within the aspects of war and peace.