A Tawdry Place of Salvation: The Art of Jane Bowles

A Tawdry Place of Salvation: The Art of Jane Bowles

A Tawdry Place of Salvation: The Art of Jane Bowles

A Tawdry Place of Salvation: The Art of Jane Bowles


Through these essays- which deal with Bowles's published as well as her unpublished work- Skerl seeks to generate serious critical attention for an important but neglected female experimental writer of the mid-twentieth century and to celebrate her originality, power, and craft.

Based in disciplines and theoretical approaches that range from feminist criticism to Middle Eastern studies, from postmodernism to queer theory, and from Victorianism to the Beat Generation, the essayists naturally approach Bowles's fiction and drama from a wide variety of critical perspectives. All of these essays are unpublished and written for this volume.


The essays in this volume explore Bowles's oeuvre from a variety of perspectives. My introductory essay analyzes Bowles's writing career and critical reception, placing her within the context of the historical avant-garde and experimental writing. Carolyn J. Allen discusses Two Serious Ladies as a text whose narrative tension between modernist content and postmodernist spirit questions stable sexual identities, making the novel an anomalous queer theory text. Stephen Benz's essay on Two Serious Ladies and "A Guatemalan Idyll" (a short story that was originally part of the novel manuscript) reveals Bowles's unusual exploration of neocolonial relationships as compared to other American literature set in tropical lands. Both of these essays on Bowles's novel emphasize Bowles's unique angle of vision that enables her to transcend convention and convey prescient critiques of stable sexual identities, cultural assumptions about eroticism, and imperialist attitudes toward the geographical or cultural Other. Together, Allen and Benz reveal a multifaceted work that demands further exploration.

The two essays on Jane Bowles's play, In the Summer House, are the most thorough analyses of that work to date, detailing Bowles's portrayal of motherhood and of the mother-daughter relationship that was so original at the time that audiences could not grasp it and also so psychologically complex that the play is still a challenge to contemporary drama and its critics. Peter G. Christensen emphasizes Bowles's complex and original analysis of mothering and her insight into the conflict between a mother's continuing psychological development and society's (and children's) need to reify motherhood. Charlotte Goodman focuses on the complexities of Bowles's exploration of the mother-daughter relationship in the three mother-daughter pairs in the play (one of which is usually overlooked). Her feminist analysis pays attention to the patriarchal context that makes women's relationships with women so ambivalent. Regina Weinreich's essay on Bowles's puppet play, A Quarreling Pair, is the first detailed discussion of a work that is often dismissed as having no importance. Turning away from a feminist interpretation of the play's pair of sisters, Weinreich places the minidrama in its surrealist context and explores the metaphorical complexities of its oppositions.

John Maier's discussion of three Bowles pieces written after she moved to Tangier is a challenge to the accepted belief that Bowles's residence in Morocco did not in-

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