Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture

Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture

Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture

Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture

Synopsis

This book looks at how differences among women have been textually represented at a variety of historical moments and in a variety of cultural contexts, including Victorian mainstream fiction, African-American mulatto novels, late twentieth-century lesbian communities, and contemporary country music. Sororophobia designates the complex and shifting relations between women's attempts to identify with other women and their often simultaneous desire to establish and retain difference. Michie argues for the centrality to feminism of a paradigm that moves beyond celebrations of identity and sisterhood to a more nuanced notion of women's relations with other women which may include such uncomfortable concepts as envy, jealousy, and competition as well as more institutionalized ideas of difference such as race and class. Chapters on literature are interspersed by "inter-chapters" on the choreography of sameness and difference among women in popular culture.

Excerpt

Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White is, famously, about two white-draped women, the serene and beautiful heiress Laura Fairlie, and her pallid and sinister double, the feeble-witted escapee from a mental institution, Anne Catherick. The novel, fuelled by both the similarities and differences between the two, traces the process of abuse and misfortune that turns Laura into a ghost of herself and an exact double of Anne. When we realize at the end of the novel that Anne is probably Laura's illegitimate half-sister, The Woman in White becomes a text book sororophobic text, playing out sameness and difference between sisters in the idiom of madness.

If we focus, as the title directs us to, only on the sensational Anne Catherick/ Laura Fairlie plot, we can, however, miss out on another kind of female doubling that haunts the novel and also emanates from the obsessively reiterated body of Laura Fairlie; this is a doubling which, according to Victorian norms, should take place but does not: the transformation of a young girl into another person after marriage. Laura Fairlie's marriage to the sinister baronet, Sir Percival Glyde, fails to transform her entirely into his wife, partly because she is in love with another man. We watch Laura's marriage through the eyes of her cousin, Marian Halcombe, who serves as witness, detective, and, not incidentally, as herself a sororophobic foil to Laura's beauty and passivity. Marian reads Laura's letters from her wedding trip, looking with contradictory feelings for evidence that her cousin has become someone else:

I cannot find that (Sir Percival Glyde's) habits and opinions have changed and coloured hers in any single particular. The usual moral transformation which is . . .

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