Kupper Publishes Book on Gaze, Memory and Gender in Narrative

Tuesday 3, 2018

Nelly Kupper, NMU professor in French and Russian, recently published “Gaze, Memory, and Gender in Narrative from Ancient to Modern.” The book uses a cross-disciplinary approach that intersects literary scholarship with neuroscience, specifically the processing of memory in men and women. 

The book examines the concept of the gaze in narrative fiction. Kupper argues that characters looking backwards or forwards in fiction is a traceable factor, identifying the function of characters by way of the gender. The gaze backward and forward and its connection to memory is not new to literary scholarship. What has been overlooked to date, according to Kupper, is the fact that the difference between the direction of the gaze exists along the line of gender.

“The archetypal plot leaves no doubt that masculine characters function differently from the feminine counterparts,” said Kupper. “I show that the biological discrepancy in memory processing between the genders, which has been demonstrated by empirical evidence in brain science, is analogous to the behavioral pattern of archetypal masculine and feminine gender characters in fiction.”

Kupper’s discussion focuses specifically on two narratives: one ancient, the Orphic cycle, the other modern, Alain-Fournier’s 1913 novel “Le Grand Meaulnes.” Kupper proposes a triadic paradigm gaze-memory-gender, rather than the dyad gaze-memory proposed by scholars thus far.

“Some scholars see a connection between gaze and memory. As detailed in my book, linking the two is faulty without situating their binary relationship in the gender of the character. Gender, however, becomes an issue only if memory has the benefit of empirical evidence in science, which shows a variance between men’s and women’s memory processing. The connection I am proposing is gaze with memory, and with gender.”

Kupper said that she is very grateful for receiving a sabbatical during the 2013-14 academic year to write the book. Without a one-year sabbatical, this book may still remain unfinished. She spent that time as a visiting research professor at the University of Montpellier in France.   

“I had full access to the extensive collection of French literature and scholarly material at the university library. The benefit of quick access to much needed material, which would take great lengths of time to get to me in the States, and some material I would not have been able to get at all, allowed me to work much more efficiently and effectively in developing my argument in this scholarly book.”

Kupper said that because her book investigates literature from antiquity as well as the modern period, it may be of interest to a wide scope of literary scholars. 

“The cross-disciplinary approach of the book, with its emphasis on philosophy, biology of memory and cultural patterns in human experience, may also attract the reader interested in matters of philosophy and culture. The extensive discussion on the transformation of homosexuality, from ancient society status to its taboo with the advent of Christianity that condemned it as sin, may be of interest to other scholars who look into matters of homosexuality or effects of Christianity on the modern epoch.”

The book was published in 2018 by Peter Lang Inc., an international academic publisher.

Jill Vermeulen
Student Writer