Becoming and Bonding: Contemporary Feminism and Popular Fiction by American Women Writers

Becoming and Bonding: Contemporary Feminism and Popular Fiction by American Women Writers

Becoming and Bonding: Contemporary Feminism and Popular Fiction by American Women Writers

Becoming and Bonding: Contemporary Feminism and Popular Fiction by American Women Writers

Synopsis

Expounding the view that the feminist movement has both encouraged and enriched literature by women, Katherine Payant examines a large body of immensely popular but, for the most part, critically neglected fiction of the period from the late 1960s through the early 1990s, relating these writers and works to the women's movement and feminist theories. The study concentrates on popular fiction, which is seen as evidence of the widespread influence of feminism and as a vehicle for dissemination of "mainstream" feminist ideas. Chapters dealing with the 1970s and 1980s survey relevant feminist theories and tie them to representative novels. Chosen for special focus in individual chapters are Marge Piercy, Mary Gordon, and Toni Morrison, who reflect divergent perspectives on feminism. Written in accessible prose, this work will deepen the appreciation of readers of these novelists and increase their understanding of the effect of social movements on the arts.

Excerpt

Since the early 1970s something very exciting has been happening in the literary world. After several decades of relative silence, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "damned mob of scribbling women" has been operating full steam, producing novels that represent a true renaissance in the world of letters. Most of these novels have focused on a subject seldom documented truthfully in literature--women's experience. Traditional subjects of women's writing, such as courtship and marriage, have been treated differently, and new subjects have opened up--women's development and their relationships with other women, and to their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, for example.

In this new literature, the entire gamut of female experience is being treated with an openness and perception never before encountered. And it is no coincidence that these literary developments have coincided with the women's movement. Although the world of letters has always reflected social changes, seldom has a social movement had such profound impact on literature. Writers do not create within a vacuum: what happens in their society creates a literary environment favorable to certain subjects and stances and may even suggest new subjects.

Like many women readers I came to this new writing around 1970, at the same time that I was plunging into the swirling waters of the budding feminist movement. I read my first feminist novels--Diary of a Mad Housewife and Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen--at the same time I read Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, and Shulamith Firestone. Influenced by my years of literary education, I was not sure if what I was reading was literature, but for the first time in my reading experience I fully recognized myself. Members of my consciousness-raising group read many of these works together, passing along titles of novels to each other. That experience was heady for me: books, which I had always loved, were now . . .

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.