Bad objects are a contrarian’s delight. In this volume, leading French feminist theorist and literary critic Naomi Schor revisits some of feminist theory’s most widely discredited objects, essentialism and universalism, with surprising results. Bilingual and bicultural, she reveals the national character of contemporary theories that are usually received as beyond borders, while making a strong argument for feminist theory’s specific claims to universalism. Written in a distinctive personal and self-reflective mode, this collection offers new unpublished work and brings together for the first time some of Schor’s best-known and most influential essays. These engagements with Anglo-American feminist theory, Freud and psychoanalytic theory, French poststructuralists such as Barthes, Foucault, and Irigaray, and French fiction by or about women—especially of the nineteenth century—also address such issues as bilingual identity, professional controversies, female fetishism, and literature and gender. Schor then concludes with a provocative meditation on the future of feminism. As they read Bad Objects, Anglo-American theoreticians who have been mainly preoccupied with French feminism will find themselves drawn into French literary and cultural history, while French literary critics and historians will be placed in contact with feminist debate.
Too often the elderly suffer “death by invisibility” long before their physical demise, but what can we learn from creative individuals when they grow old? This book examines the work of two major contemporary women poets to show how they confront aging in a deliberate and constructive way. Sylvia Henneberg reveals how May Sarton and Adrienne Rich have critically evaluated and embraced their roles as elder poets and “creative crones”—and in doing so offer a powerful resistance to age discrimination.
The Creative Crone highlights new dimensions in the works of both writers: one deeply engaged with aging but often overlooked by scholars, the other a prominent poet and feminist but not generally thought of in the context of aging. Henneberg shows how these writers offer radically different but richly complementary strategies for breaking the silence surrounding age. Rich provides an approach to aging so strongly intertwined with other political issues that its complexity may keep us from immediately identifying age as one of her chief concerns. On the other hand, Sarton’s direct treatment of aging sensitizes us to its importance and helps us see its significance in such writings as Rich’s. Meanwhile, Rich’s efforts to politicize age create stimulating contexts for Sarton’s work.
Henneberg explores elements of these writers’ individual poems that develop themes of aging, including imagery and symbol, the construction of a persona, and the uses of rhythms to reinforce the themes. She also includes analyses of their fiction and nonfiction works and draws ideas from age studies by scholars such as Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Kathleen Woodward, and Thomas Cole.
The lasting impression of these poets is that any evaluation of their writings—and any serious study of personal or political identity —will benefit from including a critique of aging. Together, Sarton and Rich establish a literary symbiosis that suggests strategies for reassessing and radicalizing our notions about aging, senescence, and literature. This new perspective on their work shows that creative and crone are far from mutually exclusive; considered in tandem, they renew the discourse on late-life creativity.
The surprising and controversial thesis of Feminist Fabulation is unflinching: the postmodern canon has systematically excluded a wide range of important women's writing by dismissing it as genre fiction. Marleen Barr issues an urgent call for a corrective, for the recognition of a new meta- or supergenre of contemporary writing--feminist fabulation--which includes both acclaimed mainstream works and works which today's critics consistently ignore.
Molly Youngkin takes on a major literary problem of the turn-of-the-century: Was the transition from the Victorian novel to the modern novel enabled by antirealist or realist narrative strategies? To answer this question, Youngkin analyzes book reviews that appeared in two prominent feminist periodicals circulated during the late-Victorian era—Shafts and The Woman’s Herald.
Through reviews of the works of important male and female authors of the decade—Thomas Hardy, Sarah Grand, George Gissing, Mona Caird, George Meredith, Ménie Dowie, George Moore, and Henrietta Stannard—these periodicals developed a feminist realist aesthetic that drew on three aspects of woman’s agency (consciousness, spoken word, and action) and emphasized corresponding narrative strategies (internal perspective, dialogue, and description of characters’ actions). Still, these periodicals privileged consciousness over spoken word and action and, by doing so, encouraged authors to push the boundaries of traditional realism and anticipate the modernist aesthetic.
By acknowledging the role of the woman’s press in the development of the novel, this book revises our understanding of the transition from Victorianism to modernism, which often is characterized as antirealist. Late-Victorian authors working within the realist tradition also contributed to this transition, particularly through their engagement with feminist realism. Youngkin deftly illustrates this transition and in so doing proves that it cannot be attributed to antirealist narrative strategies alone.
Trollope’s mother, wife, and a friend he loved platonically most of his life provided him three very different views of the Victorian woman. And, according to Jane Nardin, they were responsible for the dramatic shift in his treatment of women in his novels.
This is the first book in Sandra Gilbert’s Ad Feminam series to examine a male author. Nardin initially analyzes the novels Trollope wrote from 1855 to 1861, in which male concerns are central to the plot and women are angelic heroines, submissive and self-sacrificing. Even the titles of his novels written during this period are totally male oriented. The Three Clerks, Doctor Thorne, and The Bertrams all refer to men. Shortly after meeting Kate Field, Trollope wrote Orley Farm, which refers to the estate an angry woman steals from her husband and which marks a change in the attitudes toward women evident in his novels.
His next four books, The Small House at Allington, Rachel Ray, Can You Forgive Her?, and Miss Mackenzie, prove that women’s concerns had become central in his writing. Nardin examines specific novels written from 1861 to 1865 in which Trollope, with increasing vigor, subverts the conventional notions of gender that his earlier novels had endorsed.
Nardin argues that his novels written after 1865 and often recognized as feminist are not really departures but merely refinements of attitudes Trollope exhibited in earlier works.
“Doyle demonstrates that Alcott kept up a running dialogue with her distinguished British counterpart, both contesting and adapting Brontë’s treatments of woment’s spiritual, social, and vocational lives so as to develop her own distinctively American talent.” —Elizabeth Keyser, author of Whispers in the Dark: The Fiction of Louisa May Alcott
“Doyle provides an illuminating discussion of the full range of Louise May Alcott’s writing. Comparisons with Charlotte Brontë spark keen insights into literary traditions and cultural events. General readers will enjoy this book; Alcott and Brontë scholars will need it.” —Beverly Lyon Clark, author of Regendering the School Story: Sassy Sissies and Tattling Tomboys
The work and life of British author Charlotte Brontë fascinated America’s Louisa May Alcott throughout her own literary career. As a nineteenth-century writer struggling with many of the same themes and issues as Brontë, Alcott was drawn toward her British counterpart, but cultural differences created a literary distance between them sometimes as wide as the Atlantic.
In this comparative study, Christine Doyle explores some of the intriguing parallels and differences between the two writers’ backgrounds as she traces specific references to Brontë and her work—not only in Alcott’s children’s fiction, but also in her novels for adults and “sensation fiction.” Doyle compares the treatment of three themes important to both writers—spirituality, interpersonal relations, and women’s work—showing how Alcott translated Brontë’s British reserve and gender- and class-based repression into her own American optimism and progressivism.
In her early career, Alcott was so fascinated by Brontë’s works that she patterned many of her characters on those of Brontë; she later adapted these British elements into a more recognizably American form, producing independent, strong heroines. In observing differences between the writers, Doyle notes that Alcott expresses less anti-Catholic sentiment than does Brontë. She also discusses the authors’ attitudes toward the theater, showing how for Brontë drama is associated with falseness and hypocrisy, while for Alcott it is a profession that expresses possibilities of power and revelation.
Throughout her insightful analysis, Doyle shows that Alcott responds as a uniquely American writer to the problems of American literature and life while never denying the powerful transatlantic influence exerted by Brontë. Doyle’s work reflects a wide range of scholarship, solidly grounded in an understanding of the Victorian temperament, nineteenth-century British and American literature, and recent Alcott criticism and gives fuller voice to the multiple dimensions of Alcott as a nineteenth-century writer.
The Author: Christine Doyle is an associate professor of English at Central Connecticut State University.
Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award Winner
Occupying Our Space sheds new light on the contributions of Mexican women journalists and writers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, marked as the zenith of Mexican journalism. Journalists played a significant role in transforming Mexican social and political life before and after the Revolution (1910–1920), and women were a part of this movement as publishers, writers, public speakers, and political activists. However, their contributions to the broad historical changes associated with the Revolution, as well as the pre- and post-revolutionary eras, are often excluded or overlooked.
This book fills a gap in feminine rhetorical history by providing an in-depth look at several important journalists who claimed rhetorical puestos, or public speaking spaces. The book closely examines the writings of Laureana Wright de Kleinhans (1842–1896), Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza (1875–1942), the political group Las mujeres de Zitácuaro (1900), Hermila Galindo (1896–1954), and others. Grounded in the overarching theoretical lens of mestiza rhetoric, Occupying Our Space considers the ways in which Mexican women journalists negotiated shifting feminine identities and the emerging national politics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With full-length Spanish primary documents along with their translations, this scholarship reframes the conversation about the rhetorical and intellectual role women played in the ever-changing political and identity culture in Mexico.
Our Lady of Victorian Feminism is about three nineteenth-century women, Protestants by background and feminists by conviction, who are curiously and crucially linked by their extensive use of the Madonna in arguments designed to empower women.
In the field of Victorian studies, few scholars have looked beyond the customary identification of the Christian Madonna with the Victorian feminine ideal—the domestic Madonna or the Angel in the House. Kimberly VanEsveld Adams shows, however, that these three Victorian writers made extensive use of the Madonna in feminist arguments. They were able to see this figure in new ways, freely appropriating the images of independent, powerful, and wise Virgin Mothers.
In addition to contributions in the fields of literary criticism, art history, and religious studies, Our Lady of Victorian Feminism places a needed emphasis on the connections between the intellectuals and the activists of the nineteenth-century women's movement. It also draws attention to an often neglected strain of feminist thought, essentialist feminism, which proclaimed sexual equality as well as difference, enabling the three writers to make one of their most radical arguments, that women and men are made in the image of the Virgin Mother and the Son, the two faces of the divine.
Performing the Victorian: John Ruskin and Identity in Theater, Science, and Education by Sharon Aronofsky Weltman is the first book to examine Ruskin’s writing on theater.
In works as celebrated as Modern Painters and obscure as Love’s Meinie, Ruskin uses his voracious attendance at the theater to illustrate points about social justice, aesthetic practice, and epistemology. Opera, Shakespeare, pantomime, French comedies, juggling acts, and dance prompt his fascination with performed identities that cross boundaries of gender, race, nation, and species. These theatrical examples also reveal the primacy of performance to his understanding of science and education.
In addition to Ruskin on theater, Performing the Victorian interprets recent theater portraying Ruskin (The Invention of Love, The Countess, the opera Modern Painters) as merely a Victorian prude or pedophile against which contemporary culture defines itself. These theatrical depictions may be compared to concurrent plays about Ruskin’s friend and student Oscar Wilde (Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Judas Kiss). Like Ruskin, Wilde is misrepresented on the fin-de-millennial stage, in his case anachronistically as an icon of homosexual identity. These recent characterizations offer a set of static identity labels that constrain contemporary audiences more rigidly than the mercurial selves conjured in the prose of either Ruskin or Wilde.
Poetry Matters explores poetry written by women from the United States and Canada, which documents the social and political turmoil of the early twenty-first century and places this poetry in dialogue with recent currents of feminist theory including new materialism, affect theory, posthumanism, and feminist engagements with neoliberalism and capitalism. Central to this project is the conviction that a poetics that explores the political dimensions of affect; demonstrates an understanding of subjectivity as posthuman and transcorporeal; critically reflects on the impact of capitalism on queer, racialized, and female bodies; and develops an ethical vocabulary for reimagining the nation state and critically engaging with issues of democracy and citizenship is now more urgent than ever before.
Milne focuses on poetry published after 2001 by writers who mostly began writing after the feminist writing movements of the 1980s, but who have inherited and built upon their political and aesthetic legacies. The poets discussed in this book—including Jennifer Scappettone, Margaret Christakos, Larissa Lai, Rita Wong, Nikki Reimer, Rachel Zolf, Yedda Morrison, Marcella Durand, Evelyn Reilly, Juliana Spahr, Claudia Rankine, Dionne Brand, Jena Osman, and Jen Benka—bring a sense of political agency to poetry. These voices seek new vocabularies and dissenting critical and aesthetic frameworks for thinking across issues of gender, materiality, capitalism, the toxic convergences of nationalism and racism, and the decline of democratic institutions. This is poetry that matters—both in its political urgency and in its attentiveness to the world as “matter”—as a material entity under siege. It could not be more timely or more relevant.
In A Regarded Self Kaiama L. Glover champions unruly female protagonists who adamantly refuse the constraints of coercive communities. Reading novels by Marie Chauvet, Maryse Condé, René Depestre, Marlon James, and Jamaica Kincaid, Glover shows how these authors' women characters enact practices of freedom that privilege the self in ways unmediated and unrestricted by group affiliation. The women of these texts offend, disturb, and reorder the world around them. They challenge the primacy of the community over the individual and propose provocative forms of subjecthood. Highlighting the style and the stakes of these women's radical ethics of self-regard, Glover reframes Caribbean literary studies in ways that critique the moral principles, politicized perspectives, and established critical frameworks that so often govern contemporary reading practices. She asks readers and critics of postcolonial literature to question their own gendered expectations and to embrace less constrictive modes of theorization.
In The Submerged Plot and the Mother’s Pleasure from Jane Austen to Arundhati Roy, Kelly A. Marsh examines the familiar, overt plot of the motherless daughter growing into maturity and argues that it is accompanied by a covert plot. Marsh’s insightful analyses of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Anglophone novels reveal that these novels are far richer and more complexly layered than the overt plot alone suggests. According to Marsh, as the daughter approaches adulthood and marriage, she seeks validation for her pleasure in her mother’s story. However, because the mother’s pleasure is taboo under patriarchy and is therefore unnarratable, the daughter must seek her mother’s story by repeating it. These repetitions alert us to the ways the two plots are intertwined and alter our perception of the narrative progression.
Combining feminist and rhetorical narratological approaches, Marsh’s study offers fresh readings of Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Bleak House, The Woman in White, The House of Mirth, The Last September, The Color Purple, A Thousand Acres, Bastard Out of Carolina, Talking to the Dead, and The God of Small Things. Through these readings, The Submerged Plot and the Mother’s Pleasure explores how the unnarratable can be communicated in fiction and offers a significant contribution to our understanding of narrative progression.
Depicted in popular films, television series, novels, poems, and countless media reports, Sylvia Plath’s women readers have become nearly as legendary as Plath herself, in large part because the depictions are seldom kind. If one is to believe the narrative told by literary and popular culture, Plath’s primary audience is a body of young, misguided women who uncritically—even pathologically—consume Plath’s writing with no awareness of how they harm the author’s reputation in the process. Janet Badia investigates the evolution of this narrative, tracing its origins, exposing the gaps and elisions that have defined it, and identifying it as a bullying mythology whose roots lie in a long history of ungenerous, if not outright misogynistic, rhetoric about women readers that has gathered new energy from the backlash against contemporary feminism. More than just an exposé of our cultural biases against women readers, Badia’s research also reveals how this mythology has shaped the production, reception, and evaluation of Plath’s body of writing, affecting everything from the Hughes family’s management of Plath’s writings to the direction of Plath scholarship today. Badia discusses a wide range of texts and issues whose significance has gone largely unnoticed, including the many book reviews that have been written about Plath’s publications; films and television shows that depict young Plath readers; editorials and fan tributes written about Plath; and Ted and (daughter) Frieda Hughes’s writings about Plath’s estate and audience.
The dawn of the twentieth century saw the birth of the New Woman, a cultural and literary ideal that replaced Victorian expectations of domesticity with visions of social, political, and economic autonomy. Although such writers as Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin treated these ideals in well-known literature of that era, marginalized women also explored changing gender roles in works that deserve more attention today.
This book is the first study to focus solely on multiethnic women writers’ responses to the ideal of the New Woman in America, opening up a world of literary texts that provide new insight into the phenomenon. Charlotte Rich reveals how these authors uniquely articulated the contradictions of the American New Woman, and how social class, race, or ethnicity impacted women’s experiences of both public and private life in the Progressive era.
Rich focuses on the work of writers representing five distinct ethnicities: Native Americans S. Alice Callahan and Mourning Dove, African American Pauline Hopkins, Chinese American Sui Sin Far, Mexican American María Cristina Mena, and Jewish American Anzia Yezierska. She shows that some oftheir works contain both affirmative and critical portraits of white New Women; in other cases, while these authorsalign their multiethnic heroines with the new ideals, those ideals are sometimes subordinated to more urgent dialogues about inequality and racial violence.
Here are views of women not usually encountered in fiction of this era. Callahan’s and Mourning Dove’s novels allude to women’s rights but ultimately privilege critiques of violence against Native Americans. Hopkins’s novels trace an increasingly pessimistic trajectory, drawing cynical conclusions about black women’s ability to thrive in a prejudiced society. Mena’s magazine portraits of Mexican life present complex critiques of this independent ideal of womanhood. Yezierska’s stories question the philanthropy of socially privileged Progressive female reformers with whom immigrant women interact. These writers’ works sometimes affirm emerging ideals but in other cases illuminate the iconic New Woman’s blindness to her own racial and economic privilege.
Through her insightful analysis, Rich presents alternative versions of female autonomy, with characters living outside the mainstream or moving between cultures. Transcending the New Woman offers multiple ways of transcending an ideal that was problematic in its exclusivity, as well as an entrée to forgotten works. It shows how the concept of the New Woman can be seen in newly complex ways when viewed through the writings of authors whose lives often embody the New Woman’s emancipatory goals—and whose fictions both affirm and complicateher aspirations.
The black and white women travel writers whom Jennifer Bernhardt Steadman investigates in Traveling Economies astonish modern readers with their daring, stamina, and courage. That these women traveled at all is surprising: Nancy Prince spent nearly a decade as an African American member of the Russian Imperial Court; Amy Morris Bradley went to Costa Rica as a governess in hopes of saving her health and finances after years as an impoverished teacher in Maine; and Julia Archibald Holmes carried the banner of dress reform to the heights of Pikes Peak and to the pages of a feminist periodical. Developing the concept of the “ragged edge,” Steadman highlights these women’s shared experiences of penury, work, and independence. Genteel poverty, black skin, outspoken feminism, or sometimes all three impacted the material conditions of their ragged-edge travel (early muckraking journalist Anne Royall walked until her feet were a bloody mass of blisters). Being on the ragged edge also affected the way they represented themselves and their travels (Mary Ann Shadd Cary presented her outspoken advocacy of black emigration to Canada as appropriately feminine). Frances Wright used her travel writing to imagine the new nation as a potential utopia for women citizens; she paid a high price for daring to try to change the social terrain she crossed. Steadman’s interdisciplinary work with archives, newspapers, memoirs, and letters and her thoughtful close readings of the resulting evidence recover these important women’s travels and writing and invite us to rethink where and how women went and what they wrote in antebellum America.
The nineteenth century saw a marked rise both in the sheer numbers of women active in visual art professions and in the discursive concern for the woman artist in fiction, the periodical press, art history, and politics. The Woman Painter in Victorian Literature argues that Victorian women writers used the controversial figure of the woman painter to intervene in the discourse of aesthetics. These writers were able to assert their own status as artistic producers through the representation of female visual artists.
Women painters posed a threat to the traditional heterosexual erotic art scenarios—a male artist and a male viewer admiring a woman or feminized art object. Antonia Losano traces an actual movement in history in which women writers struggled to rewrite the relations of gender and art to make a space for female artistic production. She examines as well the disruption female artists caused in the socioeconomic sphere. Losano offers close readings of a wide array of Victorian writers, particularly those works classified as noncanonical—by Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Margaret Oliphant, Anne Brontë, and Mrs. Humphrey Ward—and a new look at better-known novels such as Jane Eyre and Daniel Deronda, focusing on the pivotal social and aesthetic meanings of female artistic production in these texts. Each of the novels considered here is viewed as a contained, coherent, and complex aesthetic treatise that coalesces around the figure of the female painter.
William Marston was an unusual man—a psychologist, a soft-porn pulp novelist, more than a bit of a carny, and the (self-declared) inventor of the lie detector. He was also the creator of Wonder Woman, the comic that he used to express two of his greatest passions: feminism and women in bondage.
Comics expert Noah Berlatsky takes us on a wild ride through the Wonder Woman comics of the 1940s, vividly illustrating how Marston’s many quirks and contradictions, along with the odd disproportionate composition created by illustrator Harry Peter, produced a comic that was radically ahead of its time in terms of its bold presentation of female power and sexuality. Himself a committed polyamorist, Marston created a universe that was friendly to queer sexualities and lifestyles, from kink to lesbianism to cross-dressing. Written with a deep affection for the fantastically pulpy elements of the early Wonder Womancomics, from invisible jets to giant multi-lunged space kangaroos, the book also reveals how the comic addressed serious, even taboo issues like rape and incest.
Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics1941-1948 reveals how illustrator and writer came together to create a unique, visionary work of art, filled with bizarre ambition, revolutionary fervor, and love, far different from the action hero symbol of the feminist movement many of us recall from television.