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The Female Face of Shame

Edited by Erica L. Johnson and Patricia Moran

Publication Year: 2013

The female body, with its history as an object of social control, expectation, and manipulation, is central to understanding the gendered construction of shame. Through the study of 20th-century literary texts, The Female Face of Shame explores the nexus of femininity, female sexuality, the female body, and shame. It demonstrates how shame structures relationships and shapes women's identities. Examining works by women authors from around the world, these essays provide an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective on the representations, theories, and powerful articulations of women's shame.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I have been blessed with many good friends who have given generously of their time and support during the writing and editing of this book. Sandra King has proved a friend indeed: there to help with dogs, textiles, and the search for Sheelas; my life in Ireland would not have been the same without her. I also thank her husband, Bobby, for aiding and abetting us and for outings to Linnane’s. ...

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pp. 1-20

Maxine Hong Kingston opens her now classic The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts with the harrowing account of how her aunt, her father’s sister, committed suicide after suffering the villagers’ punishing assault upon her family home on the night she gave birth to an illegitimate child. Related to Kingston by her mother, the story functions as a disciplinary, cautionary tale: ...

Part 1. Bodies of Shame

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1. The Other Woman: Xenophobia and Shame

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pp. 23-33

In the 1950s and 1960s, when science fiction predominantly consisted of works by male writers, Judith Merril emerged onto the science fiction scene with her groundbreaking texts which challenged the genre’s pervasive focus on masculine concerns.1 While the texts written by her male contemporaries often featured women as minor characters, ...

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2. Rape, Trauma, and Shame in Samira Bellil’s Dans l’enfer des tournantes

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pp. 34-47

Samira Bellil is known in France as the “courageous writer who forced France to confront the outrage of gang rape” (George, 29) with her best-selling autobiographical narrative Dans l’enfer des tournantes (In Gang-Rape Hell) (2002). Dans l’enfer narrates Bellil’s experience of gender violence while she was growing up in the Paris banlieue in the late 1980s. ...

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3. A Bloody Shame: Angela Carter’s Shameless Postmodern Fairy Tales

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pp. 48-60

In her short story collection The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter has re-appropriated the fairy-tale genre in the interests of feminist fantasy. Once an elusive emanation of oral and literary tradition, the so-called “bedtime story” was confiscated by male authors like Charles Perrault (whose work Carter translated in 1977) and the brothers Grimm, ...

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4. “Ecrire pour ne plus avoir honte”: Christine Angot’s and Annie Ernaux’s Shameless Bodies

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pp. 61-73

Self-exposure has become curiously prevalent in recent French literature. In addition to canonical writers like the Marquis de Sade, Georges Bataille, and Jean Genet, more recent writers such as Michel Houellebecq, Marie Darrieussecq, Violette Leduc, Monique Wittig, Virginie Despentes, Catherine Breillat, Hervé Guibert, and Pierre Guyotat have pushed the boundaries ...

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5. Interactions of Disability Pride and Shame

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pp. 74-86

In this chapter, I write about the interrelatedness of disability pride and shame. I suggest that when an unwavering satisfaction with our embodiment is understood as a prerequisite for embodying disability pride, we constitute disabled people with wavering relations to their embodiment as “excludable types” (Titchkosky, 149–150). ...

Part 2. Families of Shame

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6. Colonial Shame in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng

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pp. 89-99

In a searing passage of Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon analyzes the intersubjective play of colonial race relations as they coalesce in the shameful and painful cry of a white child: “Look, a Negro!” Fanon describes the violence done to himself in this moment, the way in which the gaze of the Other is distilled in the child’s utterance and transforms his entire being ...

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7. Ancestors and Aliens: Queer Transformations and Affective Estrangement in Octavia Butler’s Fiction

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pp. 100-118

Is shame something to be proud of? The African American science fiction and fantasy writer Octavia Butler seems to have thought that it was not. Butler repeatedly cited the goal of refuting shame as a motivation for her writing, particularly with regard to her best-known novel, Kindred (1979). ...

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8. Daughters of the House of Shame

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pp. 119-131

In this chapter I discuss a British novel first published in 1992, Michèle Roberts’s Daughters of the House, in the light of recent feminist theorizations of shame. I argue that shame acts as a central concept in the novel, delineating the boundaries of the proper feminine body and of the nation-state. ...

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9. “Bound and Gagged with Thread”: Shame, Female Development, and the Künstlerroman Tradition in Cora Sandel’s the Alberta Trilogy

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pp. 132-148

Cora Sandel’s Alberta trilogy (Alberta and Jacob [1926], Alberta and Freedom [1931], Alberta Alone [1939]) has long been an overlooked masterpiece of women’s modernism, despite its having been available in English translation for some decades now.1 Like other texts firmly established as canonical texts of women’s modernism ...

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10. Girl World and Bullying: Intersubjective Shame in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye

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pp. 149-165

Margaret Atwood’s groundbreaking novel Cat’s Eye pulls back the veil on the secret world of (pre)adolescent girls, exposing the treachery, shame, and confusion underlying their friendships. The narrative unflinchingly probes themes of childhood cruelty, self-worth, and identity through the underbelly of social control: shaming. ...

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11. Affliction in Jean Rhys and Simone Weil

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pp. 166-176

In this chapter I read Jean Rhys’s searing portrayal of an alienated, alcoholic heroine in her novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939) through the lens of the philosophy of Simone Weil (1909–1943). Weil, a Frenchwoman who died in exile in London during the Second World War, shared with her contemporary Rhys an intense interest in deracination; ...

Part 3. Nations of Shame

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12. Coping with National Shames through Chinese Women’s Bodies: Glorified or Mortified?

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pp. 179-196

Shame occurs when there is a discrepancy between how we are seen by others and how we want others to see us (Kilborne, “Fields of Shame,” 231). As this discrepancy presents as a “global attack on the self” (M. Lewis, Shame, 75) and typically evokes feelings of disgrace, failure, and weakness about our body, we tend to hide or reshape our body to dissolve the feelings associated with the embodied shame. ...

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13. Shamed Bodies: Partition Violence and Women

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pp. 197-211

Speaking to ethnographic researchers about fifty years after the partition of British India in 1947, Durga Rani says that during partition violence several Hindu families in the villages of Head Junu had anticipated attacks against their kinswomen by Muslim men. Accordingly, they took a series of measures: many killed their daughters by burying them alive while others encouraged them to electrocute themselves. ...

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14. Interrogating the Place of Lajja (Shame) in Contemporary Mauritius

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pp. 212-228

Concerned with the whole self, shame involves more bodily awareness, more visual and verbal imaging of the psychic and physical life of the self than guilt, with which it is often confused. As an affect, shame reveals the instinctual life that is innate to all human experiences. The dynamics between shame and the body are such that the most shame-inducing moments are in fact those in which the body appears to have lost control. ...

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15. Shame and Belonging in Postcolonial Algeria

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pp. 229-242

In Assia Djebar’s last autobiographical work, Nulle part dans la maison de mon père, shame is experienced in several forms and cultural settings. The earliest memory of shame that the author recalls is when she was a baby. Sleeping in the same room as her parents at approximately eighteen months old, she remembers hearing her mother’s moaning of pleasure. ...


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pp. 243-260

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List of Contributors

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pp. 261-264

Eliza Chandler is a PhD candidate in the Sociology and Equity Studies in Education department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE/UT), working predominantly in Disability Studies. Chandler holds a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) ...


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pp. 265-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780253008732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253008633

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013