Gossip is typically dismissed as the idle chatter of the masses and something which one should try and avoid. That was until Giselle Bastin started speaking up about it.
“Gossip used to have a masculine and a feminine meaning, but gradually the meaning of the word changed and it was derided as something that only women do and something that is very damaging,” Dr Bastin said.
“Gossip has in fact been very important in shaping our societies.”
Dr Bastin wrote her PhD on gossip, attracting national attention for her analysis of the etymology and history of the word. Commencing work at Flinders in 1993, her attention was soon turned to a study of literature written about the royal family, after a chance conversation with a colleague.
“The industry for royal biography has been enormous since Princess Diana became the subject of international attention,” Dr Bastin said.
“People with a republican leaning often think I must be a mindless monarchist who has never had a thought for herself and is just a fan, but in fact by studying the literature about the monarchy, there is a lot to learn about the way we construct stories and the details that fascinate audiences.”
Dr Bastin’s ability to extrapolate serious cultural observations from material derided or ignored by some is just one of the reasons students recently voted her one of their favourite educators on campus, writing a glowing profile of her work in the Empire Times student magazine.
“I really like students and teaching is very central to what I do, so to get some endorsement from them was really very exciting,” Dr Bastin said.
“Students make my life endlessly interesting.”