Eco/feminism and History in Fantasy Writing by Women

By Raddeker, Helene Bowen | Outskirts: feminisms along the edge, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Eco/feminism and History in Fantasy Writing by Women


Raddeker, Helene Bowen, Outskirts: feminisms along the edge


Introduction

A childhood pastime I've not yet outgrown is reading Fantasy and Science Fiction. These days, however, my interest especially in Fantasy is not unconnected with scholarship, both History and Feminist Studies. In this essay I reflect on ways in which women's Fantasy has been inspired by feminist ideas, with particular emphasis on 'spiritual ecofeminism' and feminist history. I approach this as a world gender historian and historian of feminism, rather than a Science Fiction/Fantasy critic. As such, this essay is alert to dis/continuities and junctures in recent Fantasy that explicitly deals with history and appears to be influenced by ecofeminism. To illustrate such influences, I draw upon selective examples from some leading American Fantasy and Science Fiction authors--Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sheri Tepper and the like--while also referring to some Australian fantasists popular since the 1990s. Of particular interest to me is Sara Douglass, who was formerly an academic historian, especially her Axis Trilogy (1995-96) and its sequel, The Wayfarer Redemption trilogy (1997 to 1999).

My discussion of women's Fantasy, feminism and history is divided into two parts, the first concerned with the various ways in which women's Fantasy has often featured feminist themes. In the second section of Part One, I expand upon one common critique, involving a radical feminist equation of Woman with 'Nature' and life-affirmation that we would now associate also with 'spiritual ecofeminism'. The very wide-ranging ecological feminist critique is focused on the destructive effects of settled, intensive ('plough') agriculture, and then industry or capitalism, as well as colonialism. A familiar theme is the rampant (masculinist) exploitation and steady destruction ('rape') of the natural and animal world, a central argument being that ecological exploitation and destruction has been intimately tied to patriarchal modes of social organization. As Karen Warren has noted, ecofeminists agree that 'there are important connections between the domination of women (and other human subordinates) and the domination of nature', but beyond that there is extensive debate about 'what the nature of these alleged connections is and which, if any, are accurate descriptions of the nature and root sources of the twin dominations' (Warren 1996: x). Spiritual ecofeminism, which is closely associated with the U.S.-led Goddess Spirituality Movement, focuses particularly on 'goddess spirituality' as an historical alternative to patriarchal religions, that was more beneficent and (like 'Woman') more in tune with Nature. Merlin Stone, Starhawk, Carol P. Christ and Charlene Spretnak are some of the authors associated with this style of thinking. (1)

Part Two is concerned with Fantasy and feminist history. The suggestion that the boundaries between Fantasy and History (fiction and fact) are not as stable as empiricist historians would have it, is not particularly startling in these 'postmodern' days of epistemological doubt. But, here I begin by addressing the issue of Fantasy and realism, specifically the question of whether historical and other fantasists necessarily contest realism, as analysts of feminist SF/F have claimed; or, rather, partly rely on a sense of historical realism to ground their political critiques. Apart from the careful reconstruction of familiar historical worlds, when fantasists cast women in unexpectedly powerful roles it is not necessarily pure invention.

Spiritual ecofeminist themes in Fantasy and the issue of historical realism in the genre are intimately connected with a historical metanarrative I discuss in the second section of Part Two, which can readily be found in women's Fantasy. There is still a clear connection between some women's Fantasy today and feminist history influenced by radical feminism, which was built on a narrative of historical regression for women rather than the grand narrative of progress for humanity/Man' typically found in conventional histories. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Eco/feminism and History in Fantasy Writing by Women
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in 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.