Prof. Art Redding won a SSHRC insight grant for his American crime writing project, “What Would Robert Mitchum Do? Pulp Culture and Postwar American Virilities.”
This is a four-year project that investigates the highly stylized depictions of masculinity in postwar crime-genre writing and pulp forms of cultural production, from the 1940s until today. My title is inspired by Somebody Owes Me Money (1969), a comic thriller by prolific crime writer Donald E. Westlake. Hunted down and captured by gangsters, the protagonist asks himself, “what would Robert Mitchum do now, what would he do in a situation like this?” The plots of such formula fictions unfold around the predicament of an “everyman” who, in a moment of crisis, is challenged to test his mettle; in so doing, he measures himself against an array of culturally available models of heroic or romantic (and quite often criminal) masculine competence. Such books repeatedly ask their readers to imagine—to reimagine—what it is to be a man. The answers provided, however, are more varied and unsettling than we might expect. At the same time, such popular works provide in compelling, if highly sensationalized, form rich cultural genealogies for the workaday misogyny and institutionalized forms of racism entrenched within American culture. Although critic Woody Haut has argued that, “in general, pulp culture fiction… could not contend with the confrontational politics of the 1960s,” many popular “post-pulp” writers persisted, producing work that didn’t square comfortably with dominant cultural, political, or gender paradigms of the decade. American noir film, alongside paperback and pulp fiction, has provided a remarkably durable set of cultural templates; a late-twentieth-century renaissance of the genre has grown, in the twenty-first century, to a remarkable global resurgence. Offering an array of models of virility, pulp culture is rich terrain to undertake fieldwork in the prehistory of toxic masculinity.
Prof. Rob Zacharias won a SSHRC Insight grant for “Literary Tourism in Canada.”
This project is the first extended exploration of the practice and significance of literary tourism in Canada, and the first theorization of literary commemoration sites using humanities-based modes of inquiry to conceptualize literary tourism as a public reading practice. It combines site visits, curator interviews, and close readings at all 9 National Historic Sites associated with Canadian literary authors — from the Robert Service Cabin in the Yukon to the Green Gables Heritage Place in Prince Edward Island — as well as a comparative study of Project Bookmark's ambitious cross-Canada literary trail. What happens, this project asks, when the lives, writings, and imagined worlds of Canadian authors are physically commemorated for a reading public? What are the factors that determine why and how specific works or authors are commemorated? Who visits these sites, and what readings of Canadian literature—and of Canadian landscapes—are encouraged through their programming and presentation?