At the heart of poetic tradition is a figure of abandonment, a woman forsaken and out of control. She appears in writings ancient and modern, in the East and the West, in high art and popular culture produced by women and by men. What accounts for her perennial fascination? What is her function—in poems and for writers? Lawrence Lipking suggests many possibilities. In this figure he finds a partial record of women's experience, an instrument for the expression of religious love and yearning, a voice for psychological fears, and, finally, a model for the poet. Abandoned women inspire new ways of reading poems and poetic tradition.
In recent years, public debate has raged over the issue of maternal choice. While personal testimony and political argument have received widespread attention, artistic representations of birth and abortion have been submerged. Judith Wilt offers the first look at how contemporary writers tell and retell the stories that shape our perceptions about abortion. She reveals that the struggle to plot these painful, complex narratives of choice, control, guilt, loss, and liberation has preoccupied an astonishing number of our most distinguished novelists, male and female alike. Readers of twentieth-century novels are more likely to encounter plots centered on maternal choice than those dealing with the more traditional problems of courtship and marriage.
In the opening of the book, Wilt discusses real case histories of several women. After studying the ambiguities of their decisions, she turns to their counterpoints depicted in contemporary fiction. Working from a feminist perspective, Wilt traces the theme of maternal choice in works by Margaret Atwood, Margaret Drabble, Joan Didion, Mary Gordon, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Marge Piercy, Thomas Keneally, Graham Swift, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Barth, John Irving, and others.
Behind the political, medical, and moral debates on abortion, Wilt argues, is a profound psychocultural shock at the recognition that maternity is passing from the domain of instinct to that of conscious choice. Although never wholly instinctual, maternity's potential capture by consciousness raises complex questions. The novels Wilt discusses portray worlds in which principles are endangered by sexual inequality, male power and hidden male fear of abandonment, impotence, female submission, and covert rage, and, in the case of black maternity, the hideous aftermath of slavery.
Wilt provides a resonant new context for debates—whether political or personal—on the issue of abortion and maternal choice. Ultimately she enables us to rethink how we shape our own identities and lives.
Activist Sentiments takes as its subject women who in fewer than fifty years moved from near literary invisibility to prolific productivity. Grounded in primary research and paying close attention to the historical archive, this book offers against-the-grain readings of the literary and activist work of Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Frances E. W. Harper, Victoria Earle Matthews and Amelia E. Johnson.
Part literary criticism and part cultural history, Activist Sentiments examines nineteenth-century social, political, and representational literacies and reading practices. P. Gabrielle Foreman reveals how Black women's complex and confrontational commentary–often expressed directly in their journalistic prose and organizational involvement--emerges in their sentimental, and simultaneously political, literary production.
Africa Wo/Man Palava offers the first close look at eight Nigerian women writers and proposes a new vernacular theory based on their work. Flora Nwapa, Adaora Lily Ulasi, Buchi Emecheta, Funmilayo Fakunle, Ifeoma Okoye, Zaynab Alkali, Eno Obong, and Simi Bedford are the writers Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi considers. African womanism, an emerging model of female discourse, is at the heart of their writing. In their work, female resistance shifts from the idea of palava, or trouble, to a focus on consensus, compromise, and cooperation; it tackles sexism, totalitarianism, and ethnic prejudice. Such inclusiveness, Ogunyemi shows, stems from an emphasis on motherhood, acknowledging that everyone is a mother's child, capable of creating palava and generating a compromise.
Ogunyemi uses the novels to trace a Nigerian women's literary tradition that reflects an ideology centered on children and community. Of prime importance is the paradoxical Mammywata figure, the independent, childless mother, who serves as a basis for the new woman in these novels. Ogunyemi tracks this figure through many permutations, from matriarch to exile to woman writer, her multiple personalities reflecting competing loyalties—to self and other, children and nation. Such fragmented personalities characterize the postcolonial condition in their writing. Mapping geographies of pain and endurance, the work opens a space for addressing the palava between different groups of people. Valuable as the first sustained critical study of a substantial but little known body of literature, this book also counters the shortcomings of prevailing "masculinist" theories of black literature in a powerful narrative of the Nigerian world.
Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory,edited by Marleen S. Barr, is the first combined science fiction critical anthology and short story collection to focus upon black women via written and visual texts. The volume creates a dialogue with existing theories of Afro-Futurism in order to generate fresh ideas about how to apply race to science fiction studies in terms of gender. The contributors, including Hortense Spillers, Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, and Steven Barnes, formulate a woman-centered Afro-Futurism by repositioning previously excluded fiction to redefine science fiction as a broader fantastic endeavor. They articulate a platform for scholars to mount a vigorous argument in favor of redefining science fiction to encompass varieties of fantastic writing and, therefore, to include a range of black women’s writing that would otherwise be excluded. Afro-Future Females builds upon Barr’s previous work in black science fiction and fills a gap in the literature. It is the first critical anthology to address the "blackness" of outer space fiction in terms of feminism, emphasizing that it is necessary to revise the very nature of a genre that has been constructed in such a way as to exclude its new black participants. Black science fiction writers alter genre conventions to change how we read and define science fiction itself. The work’s main point: black science fiction is the most exciting literature of the nascent twenty-first century.
The politics and music of the sixties and early seventies have been the subject of scholarship for many years, but it is only very recently that attention has turned to the cultural production of African American poets.
In "After Mecca," Cheryl Clarke explores the relationship between the Black Arts Movement and black women writers of the period. Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, and others chart the emergence of a new and distinct black poetry and its relationship to the black community's struggle for rights and liberation. Clarke also traces the contributions of these poets to the development of feminism and lesbian-feminism, and the legacy they left for others to build on.
She argues that whether black women poets of the time were writing from within the movement or writing against it, virtually all were responding to it. Using the trope of "Mecca," she explores the ways in which these writers were turning away from white, western society to create a new literacy of blackness.
Provocatively written, this book is an important contribution to the fields of African American literary studies and feminist theory.
Allegories of Empire was first published in 1993.“Allegories of Empire re-constellates a metropolitan masterpiece, Forster’s A Passage to India, within colonial discourse studies. Sharpe, a materialist feminist, is scrupulous in her use of theory to articulate nationalism, historical race-gendering, and contemporary feminist critique.” -Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University“Jenny Sharpe has done a great service in opening up the virtually taboo subject of the rape of the white woman by the colored man, and, furthermore, in teaching us theory - making by locating this frenzy of fantasy and reality within a specific crisis of European colonialism in India. ... In showing how a ‘wild anthropology’ must continuously rework feminism in the face of racism, and vice versa, she shows how the margins of empire were and still are at its center.” -Michael Taussig, New York UniversityAllegories of Empire introduces race and colonialism to feminist theories of rape and sexual difference, deploying women’s writing to undo the appropriation of English (universal) womanhood for the perpetuation of Empire.Sharpe brings the historical memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny to bear upon the theme of rape in British adn Anglo-Indian fiction. She argues that the idea of Indian men raping white women was not part of the colonial landscape prior to the revolt that was remembered as the savage attack of mutinous Indian soldiers on defenseless English women.By showing how contemporary theories of female agency are implicated in an imperial past, Sharpe argues that such models are inappropriate, not only for discussion of colonized women, but for European women as well. Ultimately, she insists that feminist theory must begin from difference and dislocation rather than from identity and correspondence if it is to get beyond the race-gender-class impasse.Jenny Sharpe received her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently a professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles. She has contributed articles to Modern Fiction Studies, Genders, and boundary 2.
In this first book-length study to compare the "new novels" of both Spanish America and Brazil, the authors deftly examine the differing perceptions of ambiguity as they apply to questions of gender and the participation of females and males in the establishment of Latin American narrative models. Their daring thesis: the Brazilian new novel developed a more radical form than its better-known Spanish-speaking cousin because it had a significantly different approach to the crucial issues of ambiguity and gender and because so many of its major practitioners were women.
As a wise strategy for assessing the canonical new novels from Latin America, the coupling of ambiguity and gender enables Payne and Fitz to discuss how borders--literary, generic, and cultural--are maintained, challenged, or crossed. Their conclusions illuminate the contributions of the new novel in terms of experimental structures and narrative techniques as well as the significant roles of voice, theme, and language. Using Jungian theory and a poststructural optic, the authors also demonstrate how the Latin American new novel faces such universal subjects as myth, time, truth, and reality. Perhaps the most original aspect of their study lies in its analysis of Brazil's strong female tradition. Here, issues such as alternative visions, contrasexuality, self-consciousness, and ontological speculation gain new meaning for the future of the novel in Latin America.
With its comparative approach and its many bilingual quotations, Ambiguity and Gender in the New Novel of Brazil and Spanish America offers an engaging picture of the marked differences between the literary traditions of Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking America and, thus, new insights into the distinctive mindsets of these linguistic cultures.
Between the two world wars, American publishing entered a "golden age" characterized by an explosion of new publishers, authors, audiences, distribution strategies, and marketing techniques. The period was distinguished by a diverse literary culture, ranging from modern cultural rebels to working-class laborers, political radicals, and progressive housewives. In America the Middlebrow, Jaime Harker focuses on one neglected mode of authorship in the interwar period—women's middlebrow authorship and its intersection with progressive politics. With the rise of middlebrow institutions and readers came the need for the creation of the new category of authorship. Harker contends that these new writers appropriated and adapted a larger tradition of women's activism and literary activity to their own needs and practices. Like sentimental women writers and readers of the 1850s, these authors saw fiction as a means of reforming and transforming society. Like their Progressive Era forebears, they replaced religious icons with nationalistic images of progress and pragmatic ideology. In the interwar period, this mode of authorship was informed by Deweyan pragmatist aesthetics, which insisted that art provided vicarious experience that could help create humane, democratic societies. Drawing on letters from publishers, editors, agents, and authors, America the Middlebrow traces four key moments in this distinctive culture of letters through the careers of Dorothy Canfield, Jessie Fauset, Pearl Buck, and Josephine Herbst. Both an exploration of a virtually invisible culture of letters and a challenge to monolithic paradigms of modernism, the book offers fresh insight into the ongoing tradition of political domestic fiction that flourished between the wars.
Reconsiders the centrality of a remarkable American writer of the ante- and postbellum periods
Elizabeth Stoddard was a gifted writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism; successfully published within her own lifetime; esteemed by such writers as William Dean Howells and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and situated at the epicenter of New York’s literary world. Nonetheless, she has been almost excluded from literary memory and importance. This book seeks to understand why. By reconsidering Stoddard’s life and work and her current marginal status in the evolving canon of American literary studies, it raises important questions about women’s writing in the 19th century and canon formation in the 20th century.
Essays in this study locate Stoddard in the context of her contemporaries, such as Dickinson and Hawthorne, while others situate her work in the context of major 19th-century cultural forces and issues, among them the Civil War and Reconstruction, race and ethnicity, anorexia and female invalidism, nationalism and localism, and incest. One essay examines the development of Stoddard’s work in the light of her biography, and others probe her stylistic and philosophic originality, the journalistic roots of her voice, and the elliptical themes of her short fiction. Stoddard’s lifelong project to articulate the nature and dynamics of woman’s subjectivity, her challenging treatment of female appetite and will, and her depiction of the complex and often ambivalent relationships that white middle-class women had to their domestic spaces are also thoughtfully considered.
The editors argue that the neglect of Elizabeth Stoddard’s contribution to American literature is a compelling example of the contingency of critical values and the instability of literary history. This study asks the question, “Will Stoddard endure?” Will she continue to drift into oblivion or will a new generation of readers and critics secure her tenuous legacy?
Jaime Osterman Alves / Margaret A. Amstutz / Lawrence Buell / Paul Crumbley / Jennifer Putzi / Lisa Radinovsky / Susanna Ryan / Julia Stern / Ellen Weinauer / Sandra A. Zagarell
In America as in Britain, the rise of the Gothic represented the other—the fearful shadows cast upon Enlightenment philosophies of common sense, democratic positivism, and optimistic futurity. Many critics have recognized the centrality of these shadows to American culture and self-identification. American Gothic, however, remaps the field by offering a series of revisionist essays associated with a common theme: the range and variety of Gothic manifestations in high and popular art from the roots of American culture to the present.
The thirteen essayists approach the persistence of the Gothic in American culture by providing a composite of interventions that focus on specific issues—the histories of gender and race, the cultures of cities and scandals and sensations—in order to advance distinct theoretical paradigms. Each essay sustains a connection between a particular theoretical field and a central problem in the Gothic tradition.
Drawing widely on contemporary theory—particularly revisionist views of Freud such as those offered by Lacan and Kristeva—this volume ranges from the well-known Gothic horrors of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to the popular fantasies of Stephen King and the postmodern visions of Kathy Acker. Special attention is paid to the issues of slavery and race in both black and white texts, including those by Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner. In the view of the editors and contributors, the Gothic is not so much a historical category as a mode of thought haunted by history, a part of suburban life and the lifeblood of films such as The Exorcist and Fatal Attraction.
American Hybrid Poetics explores the ways in which hybrid poetics—a playful mixing of disparate formal and aesthetic strategies—have been the driving force in the work of a historically and culturally diverse group of women poets who are part of a robust tradition in contesting the dominant cultural order. Amy Moorman Robbins examines the ways in which five poets—Gertrude Stein, Laura Mullen, Alice Notley, Harryette Mullen, and Claudia Rankine—use hybridity as an implicitly political strategy to interrupt mainstream American language, literary genres, and visual culture, and expose the ways in which mass culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has had a powerfully standardizing impact on the collective American imagination. By forcing encounters between incompatible traditions—consumer culture with the avant-garde, low culture forms with experimental poetics, prose poetry with linguistic subversiveness—these poets bring together radically competing ideologies and highlight their implications for lived experience. Robbins argues that it is precisely because these poets have mixed forms that their work has gone largely unnoticed by leading members and critics in experimental poetry circles.
Winner of the 2000 Hubbell Award from the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association of America
Choice Outstanding Academic Title
During the nineteenth century, the content and institutional organization of the sciences evolved dramatically, altering the public's understanding of knowledge. As science grew in importance, many women of letters tried to incorporate it into a female worldview. Nina Baym explores the responses to science displayed in a range of writings by American women. Conceding that they could not become scientists, women insisted, however, that they were capable of understanding science and participating in its discourse. They used their access to publishing to advocate the study and transmission of scientific information to the general public.
Bayms book includes biographies and a full exploration of these women's works. Among those considered are:
• Almira Phelps, author of Familiar Lectures on Botany (it sold 350,000 copies)
• Sarah Hale, who filled Godey's Lady's Book with science articles
• Catharine Esther Beecher, who based her domestic advice on scientific information
• Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, the actual ghostwriter of her husband's popular science essays
• Emily Dickinson, whose poetry is replete with scientific images.
Baym also investigates science in women's novels, writing by and about women doctors, and the scientific claims advanced by women's spiritualist movements. This book truly breaks new ground, outlining a field of inquiry that few have noted exists.
After a century of critical neglect, poet and writer Amy Levy is gaining recognition as a literary figure of stature.
This definitive biography accompanied by her letters, along with the recent publication of her selected writings, provides a critical appreciation of Levy’s importance in her own time and in ours.
As an educated Jewish woman with homoerotic desires, Levy felt the strain of combating the structures of British society in the 1880s, the decade in which she built her career and moved in London’s literary and bohemian circles. Unwilling to cut herself off from her Jewish background, she had the additional burden of attempting to bridge the gap between communities.
In Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters Linda Hunt Beckman examines Levy’s writings and other cultural documents for insight into her emotional and intellectual life. This groundbreaking study introduces us to a woman well deserving of a place in literary and cultural history.
Amy Lowell, American Modern
Bradshaw, Melissa Rutgers University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3523.O88Z54 2004 | Dewey Decimal 811.52
For decades, the work of one of America’s most influential poets, 1925 Pulitzer Prize–winner Amy Lowell (1874–1925), has been largely overlooked. This vigorous, courageous poet gave voice to an erotic, thoroughly American sensibility. Cigar-smoker, Boston Brahmin, lesbian, impresario, entrepreneur, and prolific poet, Lowell heralded the rush of an American poetic flowering. A best-selling poet as well as a wildly popular lecturer (autograph-seeking fans were sometimes so boisterous that she required a police escort), she was a respected authority on modern poetry, forging the path that led to the works of Allen Ginsberg, May Sarton, Sylvia Plath, and beyond. Yet, since her death, her work has suffered critical neglect.
This volume presents an essential revaluation of Lowell, and builds a solid critical basis for evaluating her poetry, criticism, politics, and influence. Essays explore the varied contributions of Lowell as a woman poet, a modernist, and a significant force of the literary debates of early twentieth-century poetics. In addition to placing Lowell in her proper historical context, contributors demonstrate her centrality to current critical and theoretical discussions: feminist, gay and lesbian, and postcolonial, in as well as in disability, American, and cultural studies. The book includes a transatlantic group of literary critics and scholars.
Amy Lowell, American Modern offers the most sustained examination of Lowell to date. It returns her to conversation and to literary history where she belongs.
Within the formulas of crime fiction, this collection ranges from writers Daphne du Maurier and Margery Allingham, whose names are synonymous with conventional subgenres of crime fiction, through Patricia Highsmith, and Shirley Jackson, who deliberately set conventions aside or who moved those conventions into other realms. Most important, perhaps, Jackson, Highsmith and E. X. Ferrars depict civilizations that are not essentially orderly, that are not founded upon a commonly understood concept of justice--where one must make her own order.
Although women and men have different relationships to language and to each other, traditional theories of rhetoric do not foreground such gender differences. Krista Ratcliffe argues that because feminists generally have not conceptualized their language theories from the perspective of rhetoric and composition studies, rhetoric and composition scholars must construct feminist theories of rhetoric by employing a variety of interwoven strategies: recovering lost or marginalized texts; rereading traditional rhetoric texts; extrapolating rhetorical theories from such nonrhetoric texts as letters, diaries, essays, cookbooks, and other sources; and constructing their own theories of rhetoric.
Focusing on the third option, Ratcliffe explores ways in which the rhetorical theories of Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, and Adrienne Rich may be extrapolated from their Anglo-American feminist texts through examination of the interrelationship between what these authors write and how they write. In other words, she extrapolates feminist theories of rhetoric from interwoven claims and textual strategies. By inviting Woolf, Daly, and Rich into the rhetorical traditions and by modeling the extrapolation strategy/methodology on their writings, Ratcliffe shows how feminist texts about women, language, and culture may be reread from the vantage point of rhetoric to construct feminist theories of rhetoric. She also outlines the pedagogical implications of these three feminist theories of rhetoric, thus contributing to ongoing discussions of feminist pedagogies.
Traditional rhetorical theories are gender-blind, ignoring the reality that women and men occupy different cultural spaces and that these spaces are further complicated by race and class, Ratcliffe explains. Arguing that issues such as who can talk, where one can talk, and how one can talk emerge in daily life but are often disregarded in rhetorical theories, Ratcliffe rereads Roland Barthes’ "The Old Rhetoric" to show the limitations of classical rhetorical theories for women and feminists. Discovering spaces for feminist theories of rhetoric in the rhetorical traditions, Ratcliffe invites readers not only to question how women have been located as a part of— and apart from—these traditions but also to explore the implications for rhetorical history, theory, and pedagogy.
Anne Sexton: Telling the Tale
Steven E. Colburn, Editor University of Michigan Press, 1988 Library of Congress PS3537.E915Z55 1988 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Anne Sexton: Telling the Tale contains some of the best and most representative writing on the life and work of this poet. The volume spans the course of her career from the 1960 publication of To Bedlam and Park Way Back to the works that were published after her death in 1974. Of special interest to the scholar and critic are the studies focusing on the materials, themes, and techniques of Sexton's poetry, especially in relation to those of her predecessors and contemporaries.
Anne Tyler as Novelist
Dale Salwak University of Iowa Press, 1994 Library of Congress PS3570.Y45Z54 1994 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Over the past thirty years, Anne Tyler has earned a National Book Critics Circle Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and the admiration of an ever-expanding number of devoted readers. The seventeen essays that compose Anne Tyler as Novelist concentrate upon the distinctive features of Tyler's writing: her steady concern with the American family, the quietly comic touch that underlies her unobtrusive but perfectly controlled style, her prodigious gift for bringing to life a variety of eccentric characters, their fears and concerns, their longing for meaning and understanding. Consistently, Anne Tyler's work focuses on ordinary families with extraordinary troubles—therein part of the secret of her broad appeal.
Written from a variety of critical approaches and representing some of the best among today's critics, the essays in this book discuss Tyler's early years and influences, her development and beliefs, attainments, and literary reputation, stretching from her first published novel, If Morning Ever Comes, to her twelfth, Saint Maybe. From Elizabeth Evans' interviews with Tyler's mother and former teachers to John Updike's lucid assessments, Anne Tyler as Novelist is a major contribution to the growing dialogue on this most important writer. All but two essays were written especially for this volume.
This book will obviously hold great appeal for the many people who have already encountered the pleasures of Tyler's novels. Less obviously, it is also for the people who have heard of her but have not read her works; those people should be inspired to turn with particular insight to the novels of Anne Tyler. In a 1983 review of Barbara Pym's novel No Fond Return of Love, Anne Tyler said of Pym that she was “the rarest of treasures.” Certainly we may say the same of Tyler herself—and for reasons given in this fine collection of essays that pays tribute to one of America's most accomplished writers.
Carol Mattingly examines the importance of dress and appearance for nineteenth-century women speakers and explores how women appropriated gendered conceptions of dress and appearance to define the struggle for representation and power that is rhetoric. Although crucial to women’ s effectiveness as speakers, Mattingly notes, appearance has been ignored because it was taken for granted by men.
Because women rarely spoke in public before the nineteenth century, no guidelines existed regarding appropriate dress when they began to speak to audiences. Dress evoked immediate images of gender, an essential consideration for women speakers because of its strong association with place, locating women in the domestic sphere and creating a primary image that women speakers would work with— and against— throughout the century. Opposition to conspicuous change for women often necessitated the subtle transfer of comforting images when women sought to inhabit traditionally masculine spaces. The most successful women speakers carefully negotiated expectations by highlighting some conventions even as they broke others.
Women in ancient Rome challenge the historian. Widely represented in literature and art, they rarely speak for themselves. Amy Richlin, among the foremost pioneers in ancient studies, gives voice to these women through scholarship that scours sources from high art to gutter invective.
In Arguments with Silence, Richlin presents a linked selection of her essays on Roman women’s history, originally published between 1981 and 2001 as the field of “women in antiquity” took shape, and here substantially rewritten and updated. The new introduction to the volume lays out the historical methodologies these essays developed, places this process in its own historical setting, and reviews work on Roman women since 2001, along with persistent silences. Individual chapter introductions locate each piece in the social context of Second Wave feminism in Classics and the academy, explaining why each mattered as an intervention then and still does now.
Inhabiting these pages are the women whose lives were shaped by great art, dirty jokes, slavery, and the definition of adultery as a wife’s crime; Julia, Augustus’ daughter, who died, as her daughter would, exiled to a desert island; women wearing makeup, safeguarding babies with amulets, practicing their religion at home and in public ceremonies; the satirist Sulpicia, flaunting her sexuality; and the praefica, leading the lament for the dead.
Amy Richlin is one of a small handful of modern thinkers in a position to consider these questions, and this guided journey with her brings surprise, delight, and entertainment, as well as a fresh look at important questions.
Arms and the Woman: Classical Tradition and Women Writers in the Venetian Renaissance by Francesca D’Alessandro Behr focuses on the classical reception in the works of female authors active in Venice during the Early Modern Age. Even in this relatively liberal city, women had restricted access to education and were subject to deep-seated cultural prejudices, but those who read and wrote were able, in part, to overcome those limitations.
In this study, Behr explores the work of Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella and demonstrates how they used knowledge of texts by Virgil, Ovid, and Aristotle to systematically reanalyze the biased patterns apparent both in the romance epic genre and contemporary society. Whereas these classical texts were normally used to bolster the belief in female inferiority and the status quo, Fonte and Marinella used them to envision societies structured according to new, egalitarian ethics. Reflecting on the humanist representation of virtue, Fonte and Marinella insisted on the importance of peace, mercy, and education for women. These authors took up the theme of the equality of genders and participated in the Renaissance querelle des femmes, promoting women’s capabilities and nature.
Popular genre fiction written by Asian American women and featuring Asian American characters gained a market presence in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These “crossover” books—mother-daughter narratives, chick lit, detective fiction, and food writing—attempt to bridge ethnic audiences and a broader reading public. In Asian American Women's Popular Literature, Pamela Thoma considers how these books both depict contemporary American-ness and contribute critically to public dialogue about national belonging.
Novels such as Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan’s China Dolls and Sonia Singh’s Goddess for Hire, or mysteries including Sujata Massey’s Girl in a Box and Suki Kim’s The Interpreter, reveal Asian American women’s ambivalence about the trappings and prescriptions of mainstream American society. Thoma shows how these writers’ works address the various pressures on women to manage their roles in relation to family and finances—reconciling the demands of work, consumer culture, and motherhood—in a neoliberal society.
One of the central tasks of Asian American literature, argues Patricia P. Chu, has been to construct Asian American identities in the face of existing, and often contradictory, ideas about what it means to be an American. Chu examines the model of the Anglo-American bildungsroman and shows how Asian American writers have adapted it to express their troubled and unstable position in the United States. By aligning themselves with U.S. democratic ideals while also questioning the historical realities of exclusion, internment, and discrimination, Asian American authors, contends Chu, do two kinds of ideological work: they claim Americanness for Asian Americans, and they create accounts of Asian ethnicity that deploy their specific cultures and histories to challenge established notions of Americanness. Chu further demonstrates that Asian American male and female writers engage different strategies in the struggle to adapt, reflecting their particular, gender-based relationships to immigration, work, and cultural representation. While offering fresh perspectives on the well-known writings—both fiction and memoir—of Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Bharati Mukherjee, Frank Chin, and David Mura, Assimilating Asians also provides new insight into the work of less recognized but nevertheless important writers like Carlos Bulosan, Edith Eaton, Younghill Kang, Milton Murayama, and John Okada. As she explores this expansive range of texts—published over the course of the last century by authors of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian origin or descent—Chu is able to illuminate her argument by linking it to key historical and cultural events. Assimilating Asians makes an important contribution to the fields of Asian American, American, and women’s studies. Scholars of Asian American literature and culture, as well as of ethnicity and assimilation, will find particular interest and value in this book.