I love and hate

I’ve been reading the poetry of Catullus, for the first time reading the whole collection, and it’s been an amazing trip.
Catullus was a younger contemporary of Julius Caesar – whom he lacerated in some of the most brutal political satire I’ve seen.  He died young, probably a few years before Caesar, though probably not from the same disease.
His poetry has extraordinary range: from obscene abuse to gentle lyrics, social satire, translations, literary polemic, broad humour, laments for the dead, poems agonizing over his intermittent lover Lesbia, and marriage hymns mixed with seriously weird re-tellings of mythological stories about gods and heroes.
Conservative in many attitudes; privileged though not in the political elite; sexist it goes without saying; possessive in the extreme: Catullus doesn’t cut a pretty figure.  But he’s his own most savage critic.
His most famous poem is an affectionate joke, where he sings his jealousy of Lesbia’s pet sparrow, which is allowed to nestle between her breasts.
His most famous phrase, in a very short poem presumably also addressed to Lesbia, is Odi et amo – I love and hate [at the same time] - and feel crucified.  Catullus discovered ambivalence two thousand years before Freud did.
It’s a miracle that these poems survived, given their eroticism, political anger, and general subversiveness.  It seems that just one manuscript survived into the European middle ages, from which all modern versions have descended.
My half-forgotten high-school Latin isn’t up to the task of construing this, so I’ve been reading in a bilingual edition with copious scholarly notes.  Trying to follow the all-important rhythm of the Latin text – Catullus apparently was a virtuoso technically.  Not exactly skipping through it! 
Given the fog of language and interpretation, I’m astonished at the power this poetry has - to speak to someone on the other side of the world and twenty centuries later, and still make the words ring.

But then - there's another side of the story.  What did Lesbia think about Catullus? I've tried to imagine what an aristocratic, educated and highly independent woman of her generation would have made of this upwardly mobile boy from the provinces.


Give me a break, Catullus!  Show some spine!
   Yes, we had one good screw, I admit it;
Thank me with flattery in verse, that's fine,
   But this moaning on and on: just quit it!

You get on my nerves, young man. Go off,
   Fight the barbarians with your little bow and arrow,
Do what men do - steal, quarrel, act the toff -
   By all the gods, I care more for this sparrow!

500 000 views

Dear Readers
   I am pleased – and somewhat amazed – to report that half a million page views have now been counted on this website, since it began in 2011.
   Some of the traffic presumably comes from robot web crawlers, but a lot certainly comes from fellow-humans!  I am always pleased when people contact me to discuss something that they have found on the website.
   The page with the largest number of visits is “Masculinities”.  That’s not surprising, as I’m best known internationally as a researcher on this subject.  The page with the fastest growth of visits is “Writing for Research”, the e-booklet that a lot of people have downloaded in the last few months.
   The most visited posts are the essays “Feminism’s challenge to biological essentialism”, and “Transsexual women”, with “Young men, masculinity and violence” coming up more recently.  Of my posts that are not about gender (a majority, believe it or not), the most visited are “Strike at the University of Sydney” and “Conferences and how to survive them”.
   The system counts the countries that visits come from.  Australia and the United States are usually at the top of the list, Britain next.  That’s predictable.  However, considerable numbers also come from Germany, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, France, and South Africa.  (As the system only counts the “top ten”, I don’t get figures from other parts of the world, unfortunately.)
   I have found this website a very rewarding thing to do.  And since my web skills resemble an octopus trying to play the bagpipes, this could not have happened without help.  I'm immensely grateful to Rebecca Pearse for essential work and good advice, on everything from the design to the detail.
   Thanks to all readers for your interest in the site!
7 May 2016

Gender for Real

I’m delighted to announce my latest book: El género en serio: Cambio global, vida personal, luchas sociales.
It is published by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) – under the auspices of their celebrated gender studies programme (PUEG).
It’s in three parts: 1. Gender dynamics; 2. Men and masculinities; 3. Transsexual women.
I’m very grateful to PUEG/UNAM, to the three translators, and to Emilia Perujo, who organized the project and contributes an introduction to the book.
This is a personal milestone: the first of my books to be initially published in a language other than my native Australian-English.
And to cap it, UNAM has published at the same time the second edition of Masculinidades.  Long live México!
By the way, for those with even less Spanish than I have: the title reads Gender for Real: Global change, personal life, social struggles.

Futures for universities

I've written a short piece in The Conversation about the state of universities in Australia, and why we need to move beyond the neoliberal, managerial model that has become dominant.  As universities are linked globally, the problems are shared across many countries.  Resistance isn't enough: we need to be generating principles and practices for the future.  Here's the link:
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