front cover of Unbecoming Language
Unbecoming Language
Anti-Identitarian French Feminist Fictions
Annabel L. Kim
The Ohio State University Press, 2018
In Unbecoming Language, Annabel L. Kim examines a corpus of French writing against difference. Inaugurated by Nathalie Sarraute and sustained in the work of Monique Wittig and Anne Garréta, this corpus highlights three generations of the twentieth and recent twenty-first centuries and the direct chain of influence between them. Kim considers these writers, and the story of literature’s political potential, as a way of rereading and reinterpreting each writer’s individual corpus—rearticulating the strain of anti-difference feminist thought that has been largely forgotten in our (Anglo-American) histories of French feminisms.
Kim’s close readings ultimately enliven the current conversation in French studies by serving as a provocation to return to reading literary texts deeply and closely, without subordinating literature to a pre-existing ideological framework—to let literature speak, to let it theorize. Tracking the influence of these writers on each other, Kim provides a new, original French feminist poetics and demonstrates that Sarraute, Wittig, and Garréta’s work allows for a hollowing out of difference from within, allowing writers and readers to unbecome—to break free of identity and exist as subjectivities without subjecthood. In looking at these writers together, Kim provides a defense of literature as liberatory— capable of effecting personal and political change—and gives readers an experience of literature’s revolutionary possibilities.

front cover of The Unnatural Lottery
The Unnatural Lottery
Character and Moral Luck
Claudia Card
Temple University Press, 1996

The opportunities to become a good person are not the same for everyone. Modern European ethical theory, especially Kantian ethics, assumes the same virtues are accessible to all who are capable of rational choice. Character development, however, is affected by circumstances, such as those of wealth and socially constructed categories of gender, race, and sexual orientation, which introduce factors beyond the control of individuals. Implications of these influences for morality have, since the work of Williams and Nagel in the seventies, raised questions in philosophy about the concept of moral luck. In The Unnatural Lottery, Claudia Card examines how luck enters into moral character and considers how some of those who are oppressed can develop responsibility.

Luck is often best appreciated by those who have known relatively bad luck and have been unable to escape steady comparison of their lot with those of others. The author takes as her paradigms the luck of middle and lower classes of women who face violence and exploitation, of lesbians who face continuing pressure to hide or self-destruct, of culturally Christian whites who have ethnic privilege, and of adult survivors of child abuse. How have such people been affected by luck in who they are and can become, the good lives available to them, the evils they may be liable to embody? Other philosophers have explored the luck of those who begin from privileged positions and then suffer reversals of fortune. Claudia Card focuses on the more common cases of those who begin from socially disadvantaged positions, and she considers some who find their good luck troubling when its source is the unnatural lottery of social injustice.


front cover of Unruly Practices
Unruly Practices
Power, Discorse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory
Fraser, Nancy
University of Minnesota Press, 1989
“A wonderfully rich and insightful collection of well-integrated essays on important current thinkers and social movements.” -Martin Jay
University of California, Berkeley

Unruly Practices brings together a series of widely discussed essays in feminism and social theory.  Read together, they constitute a sustained critical encounter with leading European and American approaches to social theory.  In addition, Nancy Fraser develops a new and original socialist-feminist critical theory that overcomes many of the limitations of current alternatives.  First, in a series of critical essays, she deploys philosophical and literary techniques to sort the wheat from the chaff in the work of Michel Foucault, the French deconstructionists, Richard Rorty, and Jurgen Habermas.  Then, in a group of constructive essays, she incorporates their respective strengths in a new critical theory of late-capitalist political culture.

Fraser breaks new ground methodologically by integrating the previously divergent insights of poststructuralism, critical social theory, feminist theory, and pragmatism.  Thematically, she deals with varied forms of dominance and subordination in modern, industrial, late-capitalist societies - especially gender dominance and subordination; state-bureaucratic forms of organization; the institutional politics of knowledge and expertise; and the structure and function of social-welfare programs.  In the last section of the book, these themes are integrated in an original theory of “the politics of need interpretation.”  This concept becomes the linchpin of he socialist-feminist critical theory proposed in the last chapter.

front cover of Untimely Women
Untimely Women
Radically Recasting Feminist Rhetorical History
Jason Barrett-Fox
The Ohio State University Press, 2022

Untimely Women recovers the work of three early-twentieth-century working women, none of whom history has understood as feminists or rhetors: cinema icon and memoirist, Mae West; silent film screenwriter and novelist, Anita Loos; and journalist and mega-publisher, Marcet Haldeman-Julius. While contemporary scholarship tends to highlight and recover women who most resemble academic feminists in their uses of propositional rhetoric, Jason Barrett-Fox uses what he terms a medio-materialist historiography to emphasize the different kinds of political and ontological gender-power that emerged from the inscriptional strategies these women employed to navigate and critique male gatekeepers––from movie stars to directors to editors to abusive husbands. 

In recasting the work of West, Loos, and Haldeman-Julius in this way, Barrett-Fox reveals the material and ontological ramifications of their forms of invention, particularly their ability to tell trauma in ways that reach beyond their time to raise the consciousness of audiences unavailable to them in their lifetimes. Untimely Women thus accomplishes important historical and rhetorical work that not only brings together feminist historiography, rhetorical materialism, and posthumanism but also redefines what counts as feminist rhetoric.

front cover of Utopian Genderscapes
Utopian Genderscapes
Rhetorics of Women’s Work in the Early Industrial Age
Michelle C. Smith
Southern Illinois University Press, 2021
2022 Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award, Honorable Mention!

A necessary rhetorical history of women’s work in utopian communities
Utopian Genderscapes focuses on three prominent yet understudied intentional communities—Brook Farm, Harmony Society, and the Oneida Community—who in response to industrialization experimented with radical social reform in the antebellum United States. Foremost among the avenues of reform was the place and substance of women’s work. Author Michelle C. Smith seeks in the communities’ rhetorics of teleology, choice, and exceptionalism the lived consequences of the communities' lofty goals for women members.
This feminist history captures the utopian reconfiguration of women’s bodies, spaces, objects, and discourses and delivers a needed intervention into how rhetorical gendering interacts with other race and class identities. The attention to each community’s material practices reveals a gendered ecology, which in many ways squared unevenly with utopian claims. Nevertheless, this volume argues that this utopian moment inaugurated many of the norms and practices of labor that continue to structure women’s lives and opportunities today: the rise of the factory, the shift of labor from home spaces to workplaces, the invention of housework, the role of birth control and childcare, the question of wages, and the feminization of particular kinds of labor.
An impressive and diverse array of archival and material research grounds each chapter’s examination of women’s professional, domestic, or reproductive labor in a particular community. Fleeting though they may seem, the practices and lives of those intentional women, Smith argues, pattern contemporary divisions of work along the vibrant and contentious lines of gender, race, and class and stage the continued search for what is possible.   

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