30 January 2024 • FacultySTEM "Less Is More" for Global Literature's Leading Men

A new book by Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robinson Murphy identifies an alternative form of masculinity in global literature. 

Drawing on the work of contemporary novelists and filmmakers, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robinson Murphy offers a new perspective on gendered and environmental power dynamics. His new book, Castration Desire: Less Is More in Global Anglophone Fiction, explores privileged characters who pursue their own diminishment, offering “a blueprint for a more other-oriented global relationality.”

Murphy argues that this “transnational phenomenon,” which he calls “castration desire,” is evident in the work of writers and filmmakers like Kazuo Ishiguro (Japanese-British), Emma Donoghue (Irish-Canadian), Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lankan-Canadian), Bong Joon-ho (South Korean) and J.M. Coetzee (South African-Australian). Their characters, who inhabit “an imminently eco-apocalyptic earth,” demonstrate “a sustainable model for thinking and acting” with a “‘less is more’ model of relationality [that] would make life livable where veritable suicide is our species' otherwise potential fate,” according to the publisher.

Naminata Diabate, an associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University, calls the book “[i]nspiring in its dexterous interdisciplinary reading of film, art, and literary fiction…[taking] readers to the unexpected terrain where queerness, masculinity, and ecological concerns intersect to present a new mode of being. Dispelling many misconceptions about castration through a conversation with current thinkers and artists, Murphy offers us a robust study that will inspire the next generation of literary critics.”

Murphy, who joined Hobart and William Smith in 2018, teaches a range of environmental studies and humanities courses, including “Environmental Afrofuturism,” “Decolonial Environmentalisms,” and “Global Climate Change” as well as “Introduction to Gender, Sexuality and Intersectional Justice” and “Management Strategies for a Changing World.” His scholarship focuses on global Anglophone fiction, environmental humanities, gender and sexuality studies and postcolonial studies. His work has been published in journals such as Journal of Film and Video, Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism, College Literature, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, English Studies, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Forum for Modern Language Studies and Research in African Literatures. 

Top: Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robinson Murphy speaks during "Management Strategies" with Professor of Economics and the Stine Family Endowed Chair in Management and Entrepreneurship Tom Drennen (right).