A song of changing genders a literary gender analysis of

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Is George R.R Martin enlightened in regards to his male gender politics?

Throughout this analysis, I define gender enlightenment as the creation of characters that are both complex (three-dimensional characters that portray both positive and negative aspects of the human psyche), dynamic (personalities that evolve throughout the narrative) and representative in one way or another of aspects in contemporary society.

The following sub-questions allow me to answer my main question:

  • Do Martin’s male characters represent fairly the definition of masculinity in our postmodern society?

  • Do Martin’s male characters exhibit complexity defined by aspects of their personalities that are both positive and negative?

  • Do Martin’s male characters evolve throughout the narrative and exhibit true development?


Primary literature in this project:

1. A Game of Thrones (1996)

2. A Clash of Kings (1998)

3.1 A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow (2000)

3.2 A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold (2000)

4. A Feast for Crows (2005)

5.1 A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust (2011)

5.2 A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast (2011)

George R.R. Martin plans to publish at least another two volumes before the series is concluded4.

All references are in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. However, references to the primary literature (A Song of Ice and Fire, volumes 1-5) are different for simplicity’s sake. Following a quote from one of Martin’s books will be an in-text reference citing which volume it is from and page number. Therefore, “(1-234)” means page 234 in the 1st volume, A Game of Thrones. In the versions I own, publishers decided to divide volumes 3 and 5 into two parts each. A citation marked (3.1-234) will therefore refer to page 234 in A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow.

Appendix 7.3 features a plot description of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire explaining major events to do with the characters mentioned in the project. It is voluntary reading meant to simplify the plot of this extensive series to someone unfamiliar with the characters and events taking place. By having a deeper understanding of the names and locations mentioned in this report, I hope the reader will feel enriched and be able to form an even more comprehensive understanding of my analysis. Similarly, the character gallery in appendix 7.2 is also meant as an aid for deeper understanding of the complicated plot.

While most of the commentary on George R.R. Martin’s series can be described as popular literature, some of the main academic works I have researched are Mark Buchanan’s honors essay from the University of British Colombia5, Rebecca Jones’ research article for the Journal of Student Research from the University of Wisconsin6 and the anthology Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire7. All three publications include research of Martin’s gender politics by exclusively examining his portrayals of female characters.

My theoretical approach will focus on defining postmodern masculinity. This enables me to examine whether George R.R. Martin’s portrayals of the male characters are representative of gender roles in contemporary society. In many aspects of social life men are challenged; when examining these relations further, the main part of my social analysis of male issues will be based on American society, due to George R.R. Martin’s nationality as an American. The texts that have been my main source of research regarding gender and masculinity are Andrew Kimbrell’s publication from 1995, The Masculine Mystique, in which he argues that masculinity faces a social, political, healthcare and identity crisis, and Anthony Synnott’s publication from 2009, Rethinking Men: Heroes, Villains and Victims, in which he focuses on the same issues that Andrew Kimbrell did fourteen years earlier and reaches the conclusion that not much has improved for the state of men in America today.

For simplicity’s sake, the bibliography has been divided into thematic sections: following references to the primary literature is the scholarship on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, which forms the basis for my problem formulation because of its apparent gap in the gender debate concerning masculinity. Then there is the theoretical literature that is the foundation of both my definitions of postmodern masculinity and of my own conceived “masculine revisionism”; then follow the sources for the statistics on social conditions for men in America. Lastly are references to texts that have not been directly employed in the project – these are mainly genre-related texts to do with fantasy and romance, which have not been wholly relevant to the problem formulation of this project, but which have provided me with a valuable foundation of knowledge after a quite thorough research.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 5

1.1 Problem formulation 8

2 Methodology 9

3 Theory 11

3.1 Hegemonic masculinity 11

3.1.1 Background and characteristics 11

3.2 Contemporary masculinity 14

3.2.1 Men in crisis 14

3.2.2 The death of chivalry 15

3.2.3 Revalorization of masculinity 16

3.3 “Masculine Revisionism” 19

3.3.1 Feminist Revisionism 19

3.3.2 “Masculine Revisionism” 19

4 Analysis 22

4.1 Characterization of main male characters 22

4.1.1 Eddard Stark - Tradition 22

4.1.2 Jaime Lannister - Emasculation 30

4.2 “Masculine Revisionism” 48

4.2.1 Victimization 48

4.2.2 Negative portrayals 51

4.2.3 Oversimplification 53

5 Conclusion 57

6 Bibliography 61

6.1 Primary Literature 61

6.2 Scholarship for A Song of Ice and Fire 61

6.3 Literature on Gender and Masculinity 62

6.4 Statistics and Miscellaneous 63

6.5 Background research 64

7 Appendices 65

7.1 Statistical data on social crises 65

7.2 Character Gallery 69

7.3 Plot description of A Song of Ice and Fire 71

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