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Arts & Culture

(Costume) Drama Kings

50th Talk in “Speaking of Books” Series Explores Depictions of Historical Masculinity

By Colleen Crowley M.Jour. ’19

Books illustration

Illustration by Jason Keisling

Illustration by Jason Keisling

Although binge-watching “Downton Abbey” or “Outlander” wouldn’t be a productive use of time for most of us, for Julie Taddeo, a research associate professor of history, a deep dive into a popular British costume drama is a downright scholarly pursuit.

Taddeo is the co-editor of “Conflicting Masculinities: Men in Television Period Drama,” the subject of today’s chapter of the University Libraries’ ongoing series, “Speaking of Books … Conversations with Campus Authors,” at 4 p.m. at McKeldin Library.

The recently published volume addresses the appeal modern audiences find in complex portrayals of fictional male characters of yore—from the dashing and impulsive Ross Poldark to the grisly yet charismatic gangsters of “Peaky Blinders”—against dynamic backdrops of class, race and concepts of masculinity itself.

“As representations of history, 21st-century British period dramas do so much more than evoke nostalgia for the past; they help open up dialogues about such contemporary issues as 'toxic masculinity,' war and trauma, LGBTQ rights, sexual violence and more.” But, Taddeo said, “they also bring us great pleasure, and for that we should never feel guilty.”

Taddeo is the 50th faculty author to speak in the series, which is free and open to all.

“The Speaking of Books series is a way to celebrate faculty members and showcase the research and publications of faculty,” said Eric Bartheld, the Libraries' director of communications.

Librarians Eric Lindquist and Patricia Herron launched the discussion series in 2005 after realizing Maryland faculty needed a forum on campus to showcase their writings.
“We wanted to use the library as a central place for scholars to speak about their work,” said Herron. The series initially focused on authors from the College of Arts and Humanities, and has since expanded to include works from other university faculty members.

“I think it’s important that students understand the scholarship their professors do,” Lindquist said.

Upcoming events include “Architecture and the Forest Aesthetic” on Oct. 23 and “Toxic Ivory Towers: The Consequences of Work Stress on Underrepresented Minority Faculty” on Nov. 15.


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