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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality > Women's Studies

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Adela Breton Cover

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Adela Breton

A Victorian Artist Amid Mexico's Ruins

Mary F. McVicker

Mary McVicker writes of Adela Breton, her independence from the strictures of Victorian life, her career as a pioneering artist-archaeologist, and the enduring significance of her work.

Aemilia Lanyer Cover

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Aemilia Lanyer

Gender, Genre, and the Canon

edited by Marshall Grossman

Aemilia Lanyer was a Londoner of Jewish-Italian descent and the mistress of Queen Elizabeth's Lord Chamberlain. But in 1611 she did something extraordinary for a middle-class woman of the seventeenth century: she published a volume of original poems.

Using standard genres to address distinctly feminine concerns, Lanyer's work is varied, subtle, provocative, and witty. Her religious poem "Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum" repeatedly projects a female subject for a female reader and casts the Passion in terms of gender conflict. Lanyer also carried this concern with gender into the very structure of the poem; whereas a work of praise usually held up the superiority of its patrons, the good women in Lanyer's poem exemplify worth women in general.

The essays in this volume establish the facts of Lanyer's life and use her poetry to interrogate that of her male contemporaries, Donne, Jonson, and Shakespeare. Lanyer's work sheds light on views of gender and class identities in early modern society. By using Lanyer to look at the larger issues of women writers working within a patriarchal system, the authors go beyond the explication of Lanyer's writing to address the dynamics of canonization and the construction of literary history.

Aesthetics of Sorrow Cover

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Aesthetics of Sorrow

The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women

Tova Gamliel

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.

Africa After Gender? Cover

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Africa After Gender?

Edited by Catherine M. Cole, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher

Gender is one of the most productive, dynamic, and vibrant areas of Africanist research today. But what is the meaning of gender in an African context? Why does gender usually connote women? Why has gender taken hold in Africa when feminism hasn't? Is gender yet another Western construct that has been applied to Africa however ill-suited and riddled with assumptions? Africa After Gender? looks at Africa now that gender has come into play to consider how the continent, its people, and the term itself have changed. Leading Africanist historians, anthropologists, literary critics, and political scientists move past simple dichotomies, entrenched debates, and polarizing identity politics to present an evolving discourse of gender. They show gender as an applied rather than theoretical tool and discuss themes such as the performance of sexuality, lesbianism, women's political mobilization, the work of gendered NGOs, and the role of masculinity in a gendered world. For activists, students, and scholars, this book reveals a rich and cross-disciplinary view of the status of gender in Africa today.

Contributors are Hussaina J. Abdullah, Nwando Achebe, Susan Andrade, Eileen Boris, Catherine M. Cole, Paulla A. Ebron, Eileen Julien, Lisa A. Lindsay, Adrienne MacIain, Takyiwaa Manuh, Stephan F. Miescher, Helen Mugambi, Gay Seidman, Sylvia Tamale, Bridget Teboh, Lynn M. Thomas, and Nana Wilson-Tagoe.

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African American Females

Addressing Challenges and Nurturing the Future

Edited by Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher and Vernon C. Polite

African American Females: Addressing Challenges and Nurturing the Future illustrates that across education, health, and other areas of social life, opportunities are stratified along gender as well as race lines. The unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege between men and women intersects with race and class to create multiple levels of disadvantage. This book is one result of a unique forum intended to bring into focus the K–12 and postsecondary schooling issues and challenges affecting African American girls and women. Focusing on the historical antecedents of African American female participation and the contemporary context of access and opportunity for black girls and women, the contributors to this collection pay particular attention to the interaction of gender with race/ethnicity, class, age, and health, with the central aim of encouraging thoughtful reading, critical thinking, and informed conversations about the necessity of exploring the lives of African American females. Additionally, the book frames important implications for recommended changes in policy and practice regarding a number of critical matters presently affecting African American females in schools and communities across the state of Michigan and nationwide.

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African Feminism

The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by Gwendolyn Mikell

African feminism, this landmark volume demonstrates, differs radically from the Western forms of feminism with which we have become familiar since the 1960s. African feminists are not, by and large, concerned with issues such as female control over reproduction or variation and choice within human sexuality, nor with debates about essentialism, the female body, or the discourse of patriarchy. The feminism that is slowly emerging in Africa is distinctly heterosexual, pronatal, and concerned with "bread, butter, and power" issues.

Contributors present case studies of ten African states, demonstrating that—as they fight for access to land, for the right to own property, for control of food distribution, for living wages and safe working conditions, for health care, and for election reform—African women are creating a powerful and specifically African feminism.

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African Women Writing Resistance

An Anthology of Contemporary Voices

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

African Women Writing Resistance is the first transnational anthology to focus on women’s strategies of resistance to the challenges they face in Africa today.  The anthology brings together personal narratives, testimony, interviews, short stories, poetry, performance scripts, folktales, and lyrics. Thematically organized, it presents women’s writing on such issues as intertribal and interethnic conflicts, the degradation of the environment, polygamy, domestic abuse, the controversial traditional practice of female genital cutting, Sharia law, intergenerational tensions, and emigration and exile.
    Contributors include internationally recognized authors and activists such as Wangari Maathai and Nawal El Saadawi, as well as a host of vibrant new voices from all over the African continent and from the African diaspora. Interdisciplinary in scope, this collection provides an excellent introduction to contemporary African women’s literature and highlights social issues that are particular to Africa but are also of worldwide concern.  It is an essential reference for students of African studies, world literature, anthropology, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and women’s studies.

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After the Cure

The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

Emily Abel, Saskia Subramanian


2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

2009 Association of American University Presses Award for Jacket Design

Chemo brain. Fatigue. Chronic pain. Insomnia. Depression. These are just a few of the ongoing, debilitating symptoms that plague some breast-cancer survivors long after their treatments have officially ended. While there are hundreds of books about breast cancer, ranging from practical medical advice to inspirational stories of survivors, what has been missing until now is testimony from the thousands of women who continue to struggle with persistent health problems.

After the Cure is a compelling read filled with fascinating portraits of more than seventy women who are living with the aftermath of breast cancer. Emily K. Abel is one of these women. She and her colleague, Saskia K. Subramanian, whose mother died of cancer, interviewed more than seventy breast cancer survivors who have suffered from post-treatment symptoms. Having heard repeatedly that "the problems are all in your head," many don't know where to turn for help. The doctors who now refuse to validate their symptoms are often the very ones they depended on to provide life-saving treatments. Sometimes family members who provided essential support through months of chemotherapy and radiation don't believe them. Their work lives, already disrupted by both cancer and its treatment, are further undermined by the lingering symptoms. And every symptom serves as a constant reminder of the trauma of diagnosis, the ordeal of treatment, and the specter of recurrence.

Most narratives about surviving breast cancer end with the conclusion of chemotherapy and radiation, painting stereotypical portraits of triumphantly healthy survivors, women who not only survive but emerge better and stronger than before. Here, at last, survivors step out of the shadows and speak compellingly about their "real" stories, giving voice to the complicated, often painful realities of life after the cure.

This book received funding from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

The Afterlife of

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The Afterlife of "Little Women"

Beverly Lyon Clark

The hit Broadway show of 1912; the lost film of 1919; Katharine Hepburn, as Jo, sliding down a banister in George Cukor’s 1933 movie; Mark English’s shimmering 1967 illustrations; Jo—this time played by Sutton Foster—belting “I'll be / astonishing” in the 2004 Broadway musical flop: these are only some of the markers of the afterlife of Little Women. Then there’s the nineteenth-century child who wrote, “If you do not . . . make Laurie marry Beth, I will never read another of your books as long as I live.” Not to mention Miss Manners, a Little Women devotee, who announced that the book taught her an important life lesson: “Although it’s very nice to have two clean gloves, it’s even more important to have a little ink on your fingers.” In The Afterlife of “Little Women,” Beverly Lyon Clark, a leading authority on children’s literature, explores these and other after-tremors, both popular and academic, as she maps the reception of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel, first published in 1868. Clark divides her discussion into four historical periods. The first covers the novel’s publication and massive popularity in the late nineteenth century. In the second era—the first three decades of the twentieth century—the novel becomes a nostalgic icon of the domesticity of a previous century, while losing status among the literary and scholarly elite. In its mid-century afterlife (1930–1960), Little Women reaches a low in terms of its critical reputation but remains a well-known piece of Americana within popular culture. The book concludes with a long chapter on Little Women’s afterlife from the 1960s to the present—a period in which the reading of the book seems to decline, while scholarly attention expands dramatically and popular echoes continue to proliferate. Drawing on letters and library records as well as reviews, plays, operas, film and television adaptations, spinoff novels, translations, Alcott biographies, and illustrations, Clark demonstrates how the novel resonates with both conservative family values and progressive feminist ones. She grounds her story in criticism of children’s literature, book history, cultural studies, feminist criticism, and adaptation studies. Written in an accessible narrative style, The Afterlife of “Little Women” speaks to scholars, librarians, and devoted Alcott fans.

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Agnès Varda

Kelley Conway

Both a precursor to and a critical member of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda weaves documentary and fiction into tapestries that portray distinctive places and complex human beings. Critics and aficionados have celebrated Varda's independence and originality since the New Wave touchstone Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) brought her a level of international acclaim she has yet to relinquish. Film historian Kelley Conway traces Varda's works from her 1954 debut La Pointe Courte through a varied career that includes nonfiction and fiction shorts and features, installation art, and the triumphant 2008 documentary The Beaches of Agnès . Drawing on Varda's archives and conversations with the filmmaker, Conway focuses on the concrete details of how Varda makes films: a project's emergence, its development and the shifting forms of its screenplay, the search for financing, and the execution from casting through editing and exhibition. In the process, she explores the artistic consistencies and bold changes in Varda's career and reveals how one woman charted a nontraditional trajectory through independent filmmaking.

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