Category Archives: cultural studies

May 23, 2012, 4:38 pm

BDSM and Feminism: Notes on an Impasse

Today’s guest blogger is Margot D. Weiss, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT. She is the author of 2012 Lambda Award finalist Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke, 2011.)

Last month, Newsweek published a cover story by Katie Roiphe with the headline “The Fantasy Life of Working Women: Why Surrender is a Feminist Dream.” The story purports to account for the run-away success of domination/submission narratives, taking E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey as a case in point. James’s book – the first in a trilogy of erotic novels – is Twilight fan fiction turned New York Times bestseller with movie rights. Banned in several public libraries, it’s a tale of the “dark desires” sparked by the romance between college student Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey. The book is a…

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April 26, 2012, 2:42 pm

Histories of Kennedy Love: A Book Review

JFK and JFK, Jr. in the Oval Office (AP Photo/Look Magazine, Stanley Tretick)

Christina Haag, Come to the Edge: A Memoir (New York:  Spiegel & Grau, 2011).

Mimi Alford, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath (New York: Random House, 2012).

It will be no surprise to even the uneducated reader that the Kennedy family occupies an entire cultural market niche all by itself.  The Library of Congress lists over 400 John F. Kennedy items in its holdings. You can add to this number: books by and about Bobby, Ted and the other siblings; about the generations that preceded the three political brothers; about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her children (there are over 300 LOC items about John Jr. and 93 by and about the far more productive and well-educated…

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April 13, 2012, 4:26 pm

What Kind of Times are These?

Anonymous, Adrienne Rich (c. 1975), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-103575

Today’s guest blogger, Jennifer Finney Boylan, is professor of English at Colby College. She is the author of 13 books, including Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenthood in Three Genders, which will be published by Random House/Crown in 2013, along with the revised 10th-year anniversary edition of her memoir, She’s Not There. Boylan’s blog, There from Here is at www.jenniferboylan.net, and she may be reached at jb@jenniferboylan.net.

 

Last week, as prelude to an evening of poetry, my colleague Peter Harris– a writer and a professor here at Colby College–gave a short reading from Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These.” “She burned through the fog that I lived in like an acetylene torch,” he…

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March 14, 2012, 1:38 pm

Ernest Hemingway and the Promise of Popular History

Ernest Hemingway, perhaps in Key West with cotsies at feet

If there is anything better than spring break, it’s spring break in a warm place.  And if there is anything better than shaking off the gloom of our Northeastern non-winter with a little southern sunshine, it is visiting places that you have imagined through the study of literature and history.

Wait — being an adult means not being dragged around to museums, national landmark homes and other edifying places whenever you go on vacation?  Aw, c’mon.

This year’s break is in the Florida Keys, where I have never been but have always wanted to go as I am a fan of Everything Ernest Hemingway.  For those of you who have only gone to resort-y places in Florida, or whose visits are confined to relatives living in planned communities, it is a truly…

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February 18, 2012, 6:39 pm

The Sunday Book Review: Elizabeth Taylor As Feminist Icon

M.G. Lord, The Accidental Feminist:  How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness (and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice). New York:  Walker Publishing Company, 2012. 211 pp. Index. 23.00, hardbound.

It is inevitable that Elizabeth Taylor’s death, almost a year ago this March, will bring us a number of books reconsidering her legacy.  I’m glad to say that one of the first out of the gate is M.G. Lord’s The Accidental Feminist, a brief interpretive account of Taylor’s cultural and political significance. As the title promises, it gives us not new facts about Taylor — it has got to be too soon for that — but a different way to think about an actress who was celebrated for her beauty and for her numerous trips to the altar (eight husbands, if you count Richard Burton twice.)

Marrying seven different men is not a quality you associate with a feminist?  Well, think a…

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January 25, 2012, 4:52 pm

Slouching Toward Joan Didion

I know that, as a feminist, I am not supposed to like Caitlin Flanagan because she has made gender essentialism fashionable again.  But honestly?  I don’t think this makes her a bad person.  She is an intellectual who has a keen eye for the role the gender binary plays in our culture, and then — her flaw is that sometimes she stops there when she should push a little harder.    When she does go for the take down, she is ruthless in ways I appreciate and admire.

I first encountered Flanagan (before I knew I wasn’t supposed to like her) when she published “The Price of Paradise” in The New Yorker (January 3 2005).  This is a priceless piece about the horrors of resort-style family vacations designed for couples who have little children. It’s an article that (more…)

January 15, 2012, 2:29 pm

The End of Miss America: Feminism Didn’t Kill the Pageant, But Boredom Might

Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, being crowned Miss America 2012

Last week I was writing a chapter of my new book about radical feminism and decided to begin with the 1968 Miss America Protest organized and executed by New York Radical Women.  I may ditch this opening: the more I dig back into the secondary material on women’s liberation, the more I see it turning up as a hook.  However, as a result of pursuing this narrative strategy I did something last night that I haven’t done in decades.

I watched the Miss America Pageant.

I didn’t intend to watch it — in fact, it took me by surprise, since for many years the pageant was a summer event. However, the show I really wanted to watch (a complex legal drama called The Firm that seems to have several plots running at once and involves the witness…

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November 15, 2011, 3:47 pm

Rejoining the Parts: A Conversation with Jane Lazarre About Race, Fiction, American History and Her New Novel, Inheritance

Jane Lazarre is a writer of fiction, memoir and poetry who has published many books, beginning with her memoir, The Mother Knot (1976; reissued in 1997 by Duke University Press) and most recently, Inheritance, A Novel (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2011). She has taught writing and literature at New York’s City College and at Yale University; and for many years directed and taught in the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School.

Tenured Radical: The title of the book — Inheritance — asks the reader to think about what is passed down, generation to generation.  But in the first chapter we are confronted with Sam’s frustration and anger that, as a young woman with a white and a black parent, she knows so little of her family history. We come to understand that our historical “inheritance” not only can’t be taken for granted and but also sometimes requires a…

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November 4, 2011, 6:12 pm

You Know All About Eve: A GLQ Special Section on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Who has time to read journals in November, you ask?  Sometimes you just have to stop and do it: it is so much easier to neglect journal-reading now that many of us access them electronically.  Remember? They used to pile up next to the desk until either vacation would come, or you would clear the decks for three intense days of reading and throwing them away.

In any case, take the time now for one issue. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies vol. 17 no. 4 (2011) has devoted a special section to the memory of literary critic, poet, feminist and queer studies scholar Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (May 2 1950 – April 12 2009). It includes an essay on James Merrill by Sedgwick, introduced by her husband Hal, followed by reflections on Sedgwick and her work by Henry Abelove, Michael Moon, Kathryn Kent and Neil Hertz. (more…)

October 27, 2011, 11:05 pm

So It Wasn’t The End of Days After All: The Return of Edge of the American West

Lord Keynes would have been a blogger at EotAW too

Today I reset my RSS feed for the Republican primary season. You know what the keywords are: “Mitt Romney,” “Michelle Bachmann,” “polygamy.” Since the political news in the mainstream is usually a version of what I heard on NPR earlier in the day, I set the feed for blogs and — lo!  What should come up but The Edge of the American West, one of the smartest and most fun history blogs around, but that ditched out on us last spring. A group effort coordinated by Eric Rauchway and Ari Kelman of UC-Davis, EotAW put itself into hiatus on May 10 2011. I used to check every once in a while to see if they had reconsidered, but eventually stopped because it made me blue that they seemed to be gone forever.  So imagine my delight when I saw a series of bright…

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