restricted access Louisiana Women Writers: New Essays and a Comprehensive Bibliography (review)
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Reviews377 ranging back and forth across the nineteenth century. As Marc Bloch insists, the study of similar processes of change in different societies (and often at different times) holds great promise for explaining the similarity as well as the singularity of societies in history, which is the purpose of historical comparison. Bowman has revealed the full potential of a synchronic comparison of landed elites and has laid a solid foundation for a comparative history of emancipation that takes Bloch's dictum to heart. Louisiana Women Writers: New Essays and a Comprehensive Bibliography. Edited by Dorothy H. Brown and Barbara C. Ewell. Louisiana State University Press, 1992. 355 pp. Cloth, $32.50. Reviewed by Margaret M. Geddy, assistant professor ofEnglish and chair ofthe American studies program at Georgia Southern University. Her research and writing focus on literature by and about women and on issues ofgender and language. Louisiana Women Writers is a commendable, albeit problematic, contribution to the existing scholarship on southern women writers. Although the exhaustive bibliography (admirably remedying a fifty-year gap in Louisiana's bibliographic history) is both fascinating and highly readable, the biographical and critical essays are uneven, and several are too esoteric to be included in a volume more clearly designed to discover and recover than to specialize and speculate. However, the text is still worthy of scrutiny since it succeeds in offering glimpses into both the minds and literary heritage of Louisiana women. In a solid introduction Barbara Ewell clearly defines how the "marginal experiences" of place, particularly Louisiana, and gender, specifically southern womanhood, intersect and significantly influence not only what these women write about but also how their writing as "Other" (outside the northern, predominately male mainstream) distinguishes their position in Louisiana literary history and contributes to Louisiana's (and New Orleans's) place in the American literary imagination. Instead of defining a canon of Louisiana women writers, this selective collection of essays reclaims lost authors such as Mollie Moore Davis and Berthe Amoss, and also offers specialized evaluations of their more famous sisters, including Grace King, Kate Chopin, and Katherine Anne Porter. Ewell intends to spark interest in the variety and wealth of the state's female literary heritage by challenging scholars to focus research on authors not included such as Lillian Hellman, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Anne Rice. Besides the omission of these well-known Louisianians, Ewell laments the scarcity of scholarship on the area's African American women, including Pinkie Gordon Lane, Elizabeth Brown-Guillory , Arthenia Bates Millican, and Martha Lisa Saloy, to name a few. The subjects of the book are presented chronologically from the Civil War to the present, and each sketch is complemented by illustrations and photographs. The essays vary widely in terms of accessibility. Although all eleven contributors keep in mind the defining terms of "Louisiana" and "woman writer," their discussions are often uneven in that only five specifically consider the dynamic relationship between gender and place, three more clearly consider place over gender, and three emphasize critical approach over place and gender. Some of the best essays emphasize the essential southern interplay among race, 378Southern Cultures gender, and place. "Race and Gender in Grace King's Short Fiction" by Linda S. Coleman cogently articulates King's inability to face squarely "the complicated intersection of race and gender" because to do so would have necessitated an examination of causes and conflicting points of view too painful for King and her southern apologist stance. Violet Harrington Bryan, in "Race and Gender in the Early Works of Alice Dunbar-Nelson," suggests that place, specifically the relatively conservative atmosphere of New Orleans, influenced Dunbar-Nelson's early stories about women's rights. Bryan further argues that DuribarNelson 's race-related stories were products of her move North to the more liberal climate of Delaware. But with this move Dunbar-Nelson seems ironically to have lost her genderconsciousness . Another essay examining the thematic relationship between gender and place is Merrill Skaggs's "The Louisianas of Katherine Anne Porter's Mind." According to Skaggs, Porter's imaginary Louisiana depended more on nineteenth-century local color ingredients than on actual experiences, but this aspect of her argument seems forced at times. Skaggs is...