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A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession: A Romance attracted international acclaim in 1990, winning both the Booker Prize and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. In her long and eminent career, Byatt has steadily published both fiction and non-fiction, the latest of which has not, until now, been given full critical consideration.
Enter Jane Campbell’s new book, A.S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination, a comprehensive critical reading of Byatt’s fiction from The Shadow of the Sun and The Game, published in the 1960s, to A Whistling Woman (2002).
The book begins with an overview of Byatt’s writing and, drawing on her interviews and essays, sets forth the critical principles that inform the novelist’s work. Following this introduction, a chronologically structured account of the novels and short stories traces Byatt’s literary development.
As well as exploring the ways in which Byatt has successfully negotiated a path between twentieth-century realism and postmodern experiment, Campbell employs a critical perspective appropriate to the author’s individualistic feminist stance, stressing the breadth of Byatt’s intellectual concerns and her insistence on placing her female characters in a living, changing context of ideas and experience, especially in their search for creative voice.
Before Life and Choice, 1880-1940
Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service
In Abroad for Her Country, Jean M. Wilkowski shares the story of her extraordinary career in the U.S. Foreign Service during the last half of the twentieth century. Born in an era when few women sought professional careers, Wilkowski graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the University of Wisconsin and then rose through the ranks at the Department of State, from Vice Consul to the first woman U.S. Ambassador to an African country and the first woman acting U.S. Ambassador in Latin America. During her thirty-five-year diplomatic career, Wilkowski was sent first as a vice consul to the Caribbean during World War II, when the Department of State was “even taking in 4-Fs and women.” She moved on to more challenging assignments in Latin America and Europe. For much of her career, she specialized in protecting and promoting U.S. trade and investment interests in such posts as Paris, Milan, Rome, Santiago, and Geneva. She also served during a revolution in Bogotá, attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and the war between El Salvador and Honduras, when she called in U.S. humanitarian aid for 50,000 war-displaced persons. In 1977 she became coordinator of the U.S. preparation for the 1979 United Nations Conference on Science and Technology in Vienna. She worked closely with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, head of the U.S. delegation, and accompanied the delegation on its fact-finding visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China.
How Faculty Manage Work and Family
Academic Motherhood tells the story of over one hundred women who are both professors and mothers and examines how they navigated their professional lives at different career stages. Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel base their findings on a longitudinal study that asks how women faculty on the tenure track manage work and family in their early careers (pre-tenure) when their children are young (under the age of five), and then again in mid-career (post-tenure) when their children are older. The women studied work in a range of institutional settings—research universities, comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges—and in a variety of disciplines, including the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.
Much of the existing literature on balancing work and family presents a pessimistic view and offers cautionary tales of what to avoid and how to avoid it. In contrast, the goal of Academic Motherhood is to help tenure track faculty and the institutions at which they are employed “make it work.” Writing for administrators, prospective and current faculty as well as scholars, Ward and Wolf-Wendel bring an element of hope and optimism to the topic of work and family in academe. They provide insight and policy recommendations that support faculty with children and offer mechanisms for problem-solving at personal, departmental, institutional, and national levels.
Women, Cultural Identity, and Community
Footbinding in China
Women's Autobiographical Writings in the Americas
This exploration of women's autobiographical writings in the Americas focuses on three specific genres: testimonio, metafiction, and the family saga as the story of a nation. What makes Laura J. Beard’s work distinctive is her pairing of readings of life narratives by women from different countries and traditions. Her section on metafiction focuses on works by Helena Parente Cunha, of Brazil, and Luisa Futoranksy, of Argentina; the family sagas explored are by Ana María Shua and Nélida Piñon, of Argentina and Brazil, respectively; and the section on testimonio highlights narratives by Lee Maracle and Shirley Sterling, from different Indigenous nations in British Columbia. In these texts Beard terms "genres of resistance," women resist the cultural definitions imposed upon them in an effort to speak and name their own experiences. The author situates her work in the context of not only other feminist studies of women's autobiographies but also the continuing study of inter-American literature that is demanding more comparative and cross-cultural approaches.
The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women
The term “wailing culture” includes an array of women’s behaviors and beliefs following the death of a member of their ethnic group and is typical of Jewish life in Yemeni culture. Central to the practice is wailing itself—a special artistic genre that combines speech with sobbing into moving lyrical poetry that explores the meaning of death and loss. In Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women, Tova Gamliel decodes the cultural and psychological meanings of this practice in an ethnography based on her anthropological research among Yemenite Jewish communities in Israel in 2001–2003. Based on participant-observervation in homes of the bereaved and on twenty-four in-depth interviews with wailing women and men, Gamliel illuminates wailing culture level by level: by the circles in which the activity takes place; the special areas of endeavor that belong to women; and the broad social, historical, and religious context that surrounds these inner circles. She discusses the main themes that define the wailing culture (including the historical origins of women’s wailing generally and of Yemenite Jewish wailing in particular), the traits of wailing as an artistic genre, and the wailer as a symbolic type. She also explores the role of wailing in death rituals, as a therapeutic expertise endowed with unique affective mechanisms, as an erotic performance, as a livelihood, and as an indicator of the Jewish exile. In the end, she considers wailing at the intersection of tradition and modernity and examines the study of wailing as a genuine methodological challenge. Gamliel brings a sensitive eye to the vanishing practice of wailing, which has been largely unexamined by scholars and may be unfamiliar to many outside of the Middle East. Her interdisciplinary perspective and her focus on a uniquely female immigrant cultural practice will make this study fascinating reading for scholars of anthropology, gender, folklore, psychology, performance, philosophy, and sociology.