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Imagining Adoption

Essays on Literature and Culture

Marianne Novy

Publication Year: 2011

Imagining Adoption looks at representations of adoption in an array of literary genres by diverse authors including George Eliot, Edward Albee, and Barbara Kingsolver as well as ordinary adoptive mothers and adoptee activists, exploring what these writings share and what they debate. Marianne Novy is Professor of English and Women's Studies, University of Pittsburgh.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

Although the contributors to this book vary greatly in their relationship to the adoptee search movement, this book would never have happened without that movement. Before discussing adoption in literature and culture could become a collective enterprise, adoption itself had to enter into public...

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Introduction: Imagining Adoption

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pp. 1-16

In one of the most famous works of literature dealing with adoption, Oedipus remembers a strange event of his youth: "At a feast, a drunken man maundering in his cups / Cries out that I am not my father's son." How can any man not be the son of his father? This memory sets forth a basic...

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Adoption and the "Improvement of the Estate" in Trollope and Craik

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pp. 17-33

Despite the Victorian novel's well-documented preoccupation with the tracing of origin and descent, a surprising number of family plots in novels of this period pivot on a disruption or alteration in the genealogical line, in the person of the adopted child. Heathcliff, the most notorious adoptee of the...

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Adoption in Silas Marner and Daniel Deronda

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pp. 35-56

Adoption as a theme appears significantly again and again in George Eliot's novels. Very often, in the plot of those novels, an adoptee must choose between a biological heritage and an adoptive one. Eppie in Silas Marner and Esther in Felix Holt both, at the crucial moment, choose their...

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Outlaws, Outcasts, and Orphans: The Historical Imagination and Anne of Green Gables

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pp. 57-81

Discussions of L. M. Montgomery's popular girls' novel Anne of Green Gables (1908) have emphasized the "sunny" personality of the protagonist, literary allusions, and the presentation of romance and gender roles. I Those few scholars who have considered the historical circumstances of late...

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Redefining "Real" Motherhood: Representations of Adoptive Mothers, 1900–1950

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pp. 83-95

In 1920, a woman who had been adopted as a child wrote an article for a popular magazine in which she tried to dispel many of the misconceptions about adoption. She devoted much of her account to proving that adoptive mothers were in fact "real" mothers. To make the point, she recounted...

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From Charlotte to the Outposts of Empire: Troping Adoption

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pp. 97-109

Zoos and endangered-species organizations urge us to adopt an animal. Teachers and school officials urge our children to adopt a tree or perhaps a fire hydrant. State transportation officials urge us to adopt a highway or occasionally, more truthfully, a "visibility spot:' A magazine advertisement...

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The Immaculate Deception: Adoption in Albee's Plays

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pp. 111-132

I will argue in this essay that much of Albee's work presents the existential absurdity of growing up within the process of the closed-record adoption system. Within is the operative word, since Albee seems obsessed with boxes and confined spaces in his plays, and the closed-record adoption...

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"I Am Your Mother; She Was a Carrying Case": Adoption, Class, and Sexual Orientation in Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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pp. 133-149

On May 8, 1985, the Metro section of the Boston Globe carried an article covering the recent placement of two children in the care of gay foster parents in Roxbury. The article, titled "Some Oppose Foster Placement with Gay Couple," presented as its raison d'etre the surprised responses...

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A Junction of Amends: Sandra McPherson's Poetics of Adoption

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pp. 151-170

When she talks about meeting her birth parents, the first things Sandra McPherson mentions are the wildflowers. When the thirty-seven-year-old poet first approached her birth parents' northern California house, she saw wildflowers and mushrooms spilling across the lawn and began staring...

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Adoption, Identity, and Voice: Jackie Kay's Inventions of Self

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pp. 171-191

Jackie Kay is a Scottish poet. The title poem of her first book, The Adoption Papers, draws on her own experience to tell the story of a Black child's adoption by a white working-class couple and experiments with multiple voices-of the birth mother, the adoptive mother, and the adopted...

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Genealogy Revised in Secrets and Lies

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pp. 193-206

For years, I imagined that my birth mother was either a fabulously wealthy and famous actress or a brilliant, eccentric archaeologist. I would look for her anytime I visited crowded, urban areas, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. In dreams, we all have access to "a lost otherworld...

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Natural Bonds, Legal Boundaries: Modes of Persuasion in Adoption Rhetoric

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pp. 207-229

Adoption in the United States is the permanent transfer of a child from one parent to another parent. At the core of American adoption law are stranger adoptions, in which a child is transferred into a family unknown to her family of birth. Through most of the twentieth century, stranger...

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"File It under 'L' for Love Child": Adoptive Policies and Practices in the Erdrich Tetralogy

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pp. 231-249

Louise Erdrich is a creator in more ways than one. In a cosmological sense, she is the manitou, or spirit voice, of a dynamic fictional world. She is also a mother. Language and birth appear lovingly entangled in Erdrich's prose as she develops ways to consider both the construction and the conception...

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Adoption as National Fantasy in Barbara Kingsolver's Pigs in Heaven and Margaret Laurence's The Diviners

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pp. 251-266

Pigs in Heaven, by American novelist Barbara Kingsolver, and The Diviners, by Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence, are nationalistic fantasies. The novels allegorically reflect the authors' dreams for racial and cultural reconciliation in the United States and Canada, respectively. These...

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Should Whites Adopt African American Children?: One Family's Phenomenological Response

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pp. 267-276

In 1997, after an extended stint abroad as a naval officer, my son entered law school. During the school's orientation week, a professor described her work as lead attorney on the Baby Jessica case, which, as we remember, concerned a couple who took a baby girl into their home, nurtured her...

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Incorporating the Transnational Adoptee

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pp. 277-299

Race and reproduction have historically played a significant and even determining role in U.S. adoption policy and practice. To the extent that a child's belonging in a family is assumed to be the product of biological reproduction and blood ties, adoption remains a less valued, unnatural...

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pp. 301-303


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pp. 305-307


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pp. 309-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024940
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472030026

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2011