and Space in
Contemporary North American
Feminisms in the 60's and Women's Fictions Since Then:
Social Background (1)-- Radical Changes in the 60's
Social Background (2) -- the Women's Movement --mostly radical feminist
the 50's--postwar prosperity; myth of work and family; conformity and repression
of women; e.g. girls--taught to be like their mothers--or home economic
60's -- political crises + youth rebellion
1. political crises: the Cuban missil crisis; the assassination
of JFK, Vietnam war, Watergate
2. social movements: civil rights --> woman's movement --> the
rise of minorities' racial consciousness
3. youth rebellion
civil rights movement and John Kennedy inspired idealism in college students.
Beat generation; e.g. Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
Literary Development: the rise of postmodern fiction
Main Concerns: 1. voting; 2. job opportunities; 3. how women are confined
at home by childbirth and marriage.
Development of Feminist literature (& the conflicts between Feminism
Definition: "Metafiction is
a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically
draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions
about the relationship between fiction and reality. In providing
a critique of their own methods of construction, such writings not only
examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore
the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text."
Barth & Kurt
1. Barth: "[one way to
come to terms with the difference between art and life] is to define
fiction as a kind of true representation of the distortion we all make
of life. In other words, it's a representation of a distortion;
not a representation of life....Art is artifice, after all."
The narrator in Barth's work:
"Another story about a writer writing a story! Another regressus
in infinitum! Who doesn't prefer art that at least overly imitates
something other than its own processes? That doesn't continually
proclaim 'Don't forget I'm an aftifice!'? That takes for granted
its mimetic nature instead of asserting it in order (not so slyly after
all) to deny it, or vice-versa? ("Life Story," Lost in the Funhouse,
The narrator in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-V:
"There are almost no characters in this story and almost no dramatic
confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much
the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects
of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters"
metafiction is one kind of postmodern novel which rejects projecting
present beliefs and standards onto the past and asserts the specificity
and particularity of the individual past event. It also suggests
a distinction between "events" and "facts" that is one shared by many historians.
Since the documents become signs of events, which the historian transmutes
into facts, as in historiographic metafiction, the lesson here is that
the past once existed, but that our historical knowledge of it is semiotically
transmitted. Finally, Historiographic metafiction often points to the
by using the paratextual
conventions of historiography to both inscribe and undermine the authority
and objectivity of historical sources and explanations. (122-123, Linda
III. Science Fiction
Definition: "In utopian fiction
a structural three-way splitting always exists between the 'here' of the
reader and the narrator and the 'there' of represented possibilities.
. . . " (Bartkowski 14)
Change: "The earlier utopias,
. . . , most often lack any indication of the process of change necessary
to move from here to there; . . .Most contemporary feminist utopian
fiction refuses to avoid this very process of transformation--whether economic,
sexual, or political" (Bartkowski
State or family: "Classic utopias
of the state, masculinist utopias, as it were, keep the question of the
family on the level of an analogy that must finally be sublated" (Bartkowski
II. Major Concerns in Contemporary North American feminist fictions:
similarities: challenge authorities; differences in views on history/knowledge
between essentialism and sexual indifference: "Feminists,
in other words, walk the fence. On one side is the slip into the
essentialism of humanism, which 'naturally' privileges the subject-as-male,
or encourage the feminist to reverse and repeat the binary trap; on the
other side is a potential negation of the feminist claim to its own language
or home, a politically dangerous stance" (Marshall
Two literary trends:
1. Constructing "the Liberal Self." (e.g. confession style. )
-- not our focus
2. Identity in relation: ". . . show less concern with 'splitting'
and disintegration than with merging and connection; less interested in
the quest of isolated individuals than in positing an individual whose
maturity will involve the recognition of her construction through the collective.
Stylistically there is a wide range of metafictional traits, from thematic
challenges of temporal or human boundaries to the formally experimental
Celebration of women's identities and the importance of the private sphere
Women and Politics e.g. Joan Didion Democracy; Bobbie Ann Mason
Critiquing patriarchy: its gender relations (sexual politics), construction
of femininity, etc.
Gender inequality + racial/class inequality
Time and Space: Women's community set in a certain place and at a certain
All of the above ideas can be expressed through strategies of duality such
as irony, magic realism, fantasies, ambivalence, mixing genres, intertextuality,
e.g. Joan Chase During the Reign of the Queen of Persia (1984):
the collective "we" as the narrator, the grandmother nicknamed "the Queen
of Persia," who rules over her daughters and granddaughters in huge old
Bartkowski, Frances. Feminist Utopias. Lincoln,
Nebraska: U of Nebraska P, 1989.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory,
Fiction. New York: 1988.
Marshall, Brenda K. Teaching the Postmodern: Fiction and Theory.
NY: Routledge, 1992.
Waugh, Patricia. Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Postmodern.
New York: Routledge, 1989.¡@