Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840-1940

Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840-1940

Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840-1940

Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840-1940

Synopsis

A provocative study based on imaginative historical research and very fine close readings. The book provides a useful American complement to Helena Michie's The Flesh Made Word and Margaret Homans's Bearing the World. It should prove enlightening and otherwise useful not just to scholars of American literature, but also to those engaged in American studies, feminist criticism and theory, women's studies, the sociology of medicine and illness, and the history of science and medicine.

Cynthia S. Jordan, Indiana University

Excerpt

Nancy and I are sorry to learn about your illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God bless you.

--Ronald Reagan, letter to Augusta Lockridge, a fictional character who was blinded in the soap opera "Santa Barbara," Newsweek, 30 April 1990

There will not be much in this book that is funny, and little from contemporary popular culture with no pretensions to being "literature," but two popular and comic renderings of women's illnesses strike me as suitable examples with which to begin this study.

In the "Kudzu" cartoon of 21 June 1989, the title character confers with his minister about the attachment his mother enforces with illness, complaining that when he "assert[s his] independence she gets sick" and that he believes she can even sense his "betrayal" in speaking to the minister about her. At that moment, she faxes in a response: "Cough, cough. Wheeze."

In a 1990 episode of the television situation comedy "Roseanne," Roseanne, her sister, and their husbands discuss what kind of film they want to see. Roseanne's husband says any kind of movie is fine, as long as it is not one of those "women's movies." Acting out his definition, he slumps in the recliner, claiming to be dying of "one of those women's diseases." The brother-in-law joins him, and both collapse on the floor after feigning romantic deaths.

Neither of these texts actually represents a woman's disease; instead, each represents men reacting to a representation of female disease (a fax, a film). They represent the interpretation--the male interpreta-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.