GenSex: Gender and Sexuality Research Group

12th Apr 2010, 6:15pm - 8:15pm

Edge Hill University

GenSex – Edge Hill University’s Gender and Sexuality Research Group – is holding its next session on Monday 12th April 2010, from 6:!5pm-8:15pm, in room M42 in the Main Building at the Ormskirk Campus.

The Gender and Sexuality Research Group is an inter-disciplinary group which promotes research into gender and sexuality studies.

What a fall hers has been!:The Image of the Fallen Woman in Victorian Painting’ by Anna Maddison

The fallen woman is one of Victorian culture’s most recognisable stereotypes, appearing as a recurrent motif in the art and literature of the period. This informal talk will briefly discuss several paintings representing the fallen woman from the mid-nineteenth century, and consider how the viewer is encouraged to read the image, and consequently, the societal issue.

Anna Maddisonis currently writing up a thesis on the Victorian poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She lectures in English Literature and Art History for University of Liverpool Continuing Education and University of Bradford (Centre for Lifelong Learning). In the last few years she has taught at Tate Liverpool, the Walker and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. She also lectures in a freelance capacity and is currently working at the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, giving monthly talks on the gallery’s collection. Last year she co-curated her first exhibition at the gallery.

‘I never backed down, never turned milky: Ruby Sparks, Crime, Violence and Masculinity in Inter-war England’ by  Dr Alyson Brown

The Dartmoor Prison Riot of January 24th 1932 and the exploits of Ruby Sparks and his ‘Bobbed-Haired Bandit’ partner have been described as among ‘the more spectacular eruptions of the pre-Kray underworld’. 

Indeed, Charles John Sparks, popularly known as Ruby Sparks but whose aliases include John Scott, John Wilson and John Webster, was involved in the Dartmoor riot where he was serving a sentence of five years servitude and five years preventive detention as an habitual offender for conspiracy, larceny, shop-breaking and receiving. Not only did he play a prominent role in the Dartmoor riot but he was a notorious offender of his time and attracted the inter-war glamour of the motor-bandit and smash-and-grab raider. 

He reflected the contemporary image of the ‘modern’ dangerous criminal, intelligent, ruthless and charismatic but also represented a particular form of tough, underworld masculinity; the kind of man who scorned law-abiding ‘mugs’, was always ready to avenge insult, take women when he wanted and be generous with his money. This paper examines the criminal career of Ruby Sparks and his image as a physically and mentally tough offender at a time when such criminals began to be glamorised as well as condemned.

Dr Alyson Brown is a Reader in Criminal History at Edge Hill University. She has conducted extensive research into the history of crime, particularly penal history. Her book, English Society and the Prison (2003) was well received and widely reviewed. Her published articles and chapters include an article on the Dartmoor Prison Riot in the British Journal of Criminology (2007).  Recently her work was used to name Wil Alsop’s ‘Creative Prison’, an exhibition of which was held at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. She is currently on the Advisory Panel of the proposed £15 million ‘Lincoln Castle Revealed’ project.

‘Redeeming the ‘Unmanly Jew? The Jewish Legion and the Fight for Palestine’ by Dr James Renton

Gender played a significant role in how Jews were discussed in modern Europe. The supposed corruption of gender norms by Jews was for many a sign of their abnormality. The Jewish male was said to be weak, bent over, cowardly, and feminine– the opposite of the martial archetype of a healthy, manly European. As with other antisemitic accusations, many Jews appropriated this discourse, and sought to redeem themselves through manly pursuits, from gymnastics to boxing. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ultimate expression of manliness, however, was on the battlefield.

In the First World War, Zionists aimed to re-establish the Jewish national warrior through the Jewish Legion, which was a part of the British Army in Palestine. This project was the beginning of the relationship between militarism and Jewish nationalism, which came to be of great significance on the Zionist and Israeli Right. This paper will consider the role of gender in the Jewish Legion project, and will ask how important it was for Zionists to redeem the ‘unmanly Jew’. Was gender merely used as a sign of a wider transformation, or was it at the heart of the Zionist embrace of militarism?

Dr James Renton is Senior Lecturer in History at Edge Hill, an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of ‘The Zionist Masquerade: The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914-1918 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), which was longlisted for the 2009 Longman/History Today Book of the Year Prize. His next book will be on Orientalism and the British Empire in the Middle East.

Contact Details

Would you like to give a paper to GenSex or lead us in a workshop or seminar? Interdisciplinary research-based debates, presentations and art installations are always welcome. Topics can include… masculinities, feminisms, gender theories, queer studies, sexuality and subversion, bodily narratives and transgendered identities… just contact Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards by emailing