n Gender Questions - Mind your p(ederast)s and q(ueer)s : the school as phallic parent in Mark Behr's

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2309-9704



This study examines the role of the school in Mark Behr's , and situates the institution's location at the nexus of gender studies, children's literature scholarship and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. The article argues that in the novel, the school is a phallic parent and an agent of the apartheid state, eager to enforce white male and heterosexual hegemony in psychologically and physically violent ways. Behr focuses on the vicious abuse of queer boys particularly. The article applies contemporary scholarship in children's literature to what is unquestionably a novel for and by an adult, precisely so because of the book's bold grappling with the questions of what is a child, what constitutes sex, who or what is the phallus, and what constitutes violence; it also situates Behr's thinly veiled autobiography in a (queer) school story tradition. Specific thinkers on whose work the article draws include Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault; gender theorists Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan; and children's literature scholars Karen Coats, Kenneth Kidd and others.

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