LU Professor To Speak On Masculinity/TV Show “Lost”

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Longwood University faculty member will give a lecture on masculinity in the TV show “Lost,” part of his ongoing research on masculinity studies.

“The 'Lost' Boys and Masculinity Found” will be presented Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. in Longwood's Jeffers 133 by Dr. David Magill, assistant professor of English. The title of the presentation, the Fall 2010 Colloquium Lecture, is the same as an essay Magill wrote for the book Lost on Television, a collection of essays that will be published in spring or early summer of 2011.

“My interest in this project initially arose from my position as a devoted fan of the show combined with my current work on ethical manhood in contemporary cinema and television,” Magill said.

Email newsletter signup

“My presentation will explore 'Lost' as a text that presents a vision of ethical manhood through the show's plot and characters. The show promises a better world through men acting as good men but ultimately leaves us with men still in charge of the world. I also will discuss how the show's generic qualities – science fiction and suspense texts – and innovative narrative structures contributed to the show's passionate fan base and fueled the angry debate over the show's finale and plot resolutions, or lack thereof.”

The presentation will “allow us to consider questions of ethical behavior and identity norms in popular culture,” Magill said. “As part of my presentation, I hope to raise discussion about how the idea of ethical manhood – and by extension, ethical action by either gender – can be viewed within the Longwood community. For example, does our concept of a 'citizen leader' reflect the same qualities exemplified by the men of 'Lost'? And what differences might be useful to note? Discussing 'Lost' in these terms would allow to converse about our vision of community engagement and how that vision differs for men and women.”

Despite the show's “science fiction pyrotechnics, at its heart 'Lost' focuses as much on questions of good and evil, asking what we should do, what we can do, and what we must do,” Magill said. “The central ethical conflicts of the show are dramatized through several male characters, thereby connecting masculine identity to specific cultural ideals and behaviors. In particular, 'Lost' suggests that we ask our men to use the authority and power associated with masculinity in a socially responsible manner. But at the same time, 'Lost' also presents a traditional vision of 'lost' or wounded men who need support and rejuvenation to find their way in American culture.”

Magill also has written scholarly articles about masculinity issues related to “Firefly,” a short-lived science fiction program on the Fox network in 2002; John Wayne; and the actor Will Smith. His dissertation examined white masculinity in 1920s American literature and culture.

Magill joined the Longwood faculty in fall 2009 after teaching for six years at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, in Johnstown, Pa. The Alexandria native is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.