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

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Blind Rage Cover

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Blind Rage

Letters to Helen Keller

Georgina Kleege

As a young blind girl, Georgina Kleege repeatedly heard the refrain, “Why can’t you be more like Helen Keller?” Kleege’s resentment culminates in her book Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller, an ingenious examination of the life of this renowned international figure using 21st-century sensibilities. Kleege’s absorption with Keller originated as an angry response to the ideal of a secular saint, which no real blind or deaf person could ever emulate. However, her investigation into the genuine person revealed that a much more complex set of characters and circumstances shaped Keller’s life. Blind Rage employs an adroit form of creative nonfiction to review the critical junctures in Keller’s life. The simple facts about Helen Keller are well-known: how Anne Sullivan taught her deaf-blind pupil to communicate and learn; her impressive career as a Radcliffe graduate and author; her countless public appearances in various venues, from cinema to vaudeville, to campaigns for the American Foundation for the Blind. But Kleege delves below the surface to question the perfection of this image. Through the device of her letters, she challenges Keller to reveal her actual emotions, the real nature of her long relationship with Sullivan, with Sullivan’s husband, and her brief engagement to Peter Fagan. Kleege’s imaginative dramatization, distinguished by her depiction of Keller’s command of abstract sensations, gradually shifts in perspective from anger to admiration. Blind Rage criticizes the Helen Keller myth for prolonging an unrealistic model for blind people, yet it appreciates the individual who found a practical way to live despite the restrictions of her myth.

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Blue Daughter of the Red Sea

A Memoir

Meti Birabiro

    Born into a life of constant financial, physical, and moral threat, Meti Birabiro takes refuge in literature and the fantastic. Blue Daughter of the Red Sea is Birabiro’s poetic account of the harsh reality of her young life spread across three continents. Her voice is a fresh mélange of child and adult perspectives, at once brutally honest and wise beyond her years. Through her journey from Ethiopia to Italy and finally to the United States, we encounter Birabiro’s relatives, friends, and enemies—relationships so intense that these people become her vampires, devils, angels, and saints. These characterizations always lead her back to the truth, helping her to decipher what is fair and good, to understand what she must cherish and what she must rage against.

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Blue Studios

Poetry and Its Cultural Work

Written by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Feminist issues in avant garde poetry.
 
In her now-classic The Pink Guitar, Rachel Blau DuPlessis examined a number of modern and contemporary poets and artists to explore the possibility of finding a language that would question deeply held assumptions about gender. In the 12 essays and introduction that constitute Blue Studios, DuPlessis continues that task, examining the work of experimental poets and the innovative forms they have fashioned to challenge commonplace assumptions about gender and cultural authority.
 
The essays in “Attitudes and Practices” deal with two questions: what a feminist reading of cultural texts involves, and the nature of the essay itself as a mode of knowing: how poetry can be discursive and how the essay can be poetic. The goal of “Marble Paper,” with its studies of William Wordsworth, Ezra Pound, and Charles Olson is to suggest terms for a “feminist history of poetry.”
 

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The Blue Tattoo

The Life of Olive Oatman

Margot Mifflin

In 1851 Olive Oatman was a thirteen-year old pioneer traveling west toward Zion, with her Mormon family. Within a decade, she was a white Indian with a chin tattoo, caught between cultures. The Blue Tattoo tells the harrowing story of this forgotten heroine of frontier America. Orphaned when her family was brutally killed by Yavapai Indians, Oatman lived as a slave to her captors for a year before being traded to the Mohave, who tattooed her face and raised her as their own. She was fully assimilated and perfectly happy when, at nineteen, she was ransomed back to white society. She became an instant celebrity, but the price of fame was high and the pain of her ruptured childhood lasted a lifetime.

Based on historical records, including letters and diaries of Oatman’s friends and relatives, The Blue Tattoo is the first book to examine her life from her childhood in Illinois—including the massacre, her captivity, and her return to white society—to her later years as a wealthy banker’s wife in Texas.

Oatman’s story has since become legend, inspiring artworks, fiction, film, radio plays, and even an episode of Death Valley Days starring Ronald Reagan. Its themes, from the perils of religious utopianism to the permeable border between civilization and savagery, are deeply rooted in the American psyche. Oatman’s blue tattoo was a cultural symbol that evoked both the imprint of her Mohave past and the lingering scars of westward expansion. It also served as a reminder of her deepest secret, fully explored here for the first time: she never wanted to go home.
 

Bodied Mindfulness Cover

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Bodied Mindfulness

Women’s Spirits, Bodies and Places

“I see spirituality and social change to be integrally related to each other. I believe that liberation efforts that are supported by spiritual experiences of integration promote human dignity as well as social equality.”

Bodied Mindfulness combines spiritual, social and analytical perspectives to explore topics central to women’s development: spirituality, women’s bodies, cultural constructions of women’s sexuality in language, sexual ethics, the sexual contract in politics and at work, and the relation between nature and culture. It is Tomm’s deeply held conviction that women need to bring a vital spirituality to feminist social criticism in order to resolve these issues and increase their power to promote social justice and ecological balance.

Tomm embraces a vast store of knowledge from diverse sources, including Buddhist, shamanist and feminist resources. In a move away from abstract theorizing, she explicitly connects theory with realities lived by women. Grounding theory in personal experience — her own and others — Tomm delivers a powerful and empowering account of women’s spirituality. The resulting ontological transformation allows women to live deeply in the body while strengthening their relation to human and non-human matter and energy.

Bodied Mindfulness will be of great interest to feminist scholars in all disciplines, but most particularly to those in Women’s Studies and Religious Studies.

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Bodies in Crisis

Culture, Violence, and Women's Resistance in Neoliberal Argentina

Barbara Sutton

Born and raised in Argentina and still maintaining significant ties to the area, Barbara Sutton examines the complex, and often hidden, bodily worlds of diverse women in that country during a period of profound social upheaval. Based primarily on women's experiential narratives and set against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis and intensified social movement activism post-2001, Bodies in Crisis illuminates how multiple forms of injustice converge in and are contested through women's bodies. Sutton reveals the bodily scars of neoliberal globalization; women's negotiation of cultural norms of femininity and beauty; experiences with clandestine, illegal, and unsafe abortions; exposure to and resistance against interpersonal and structural violence; and the role of bodies as tools and vehicles of political action.


Through the lens of women's body consciousness in a Global South country, and drawing on multifaceted stories and a politically embedded approach, Bodies in Crisis suggests that social policy, economic systems, cultural ideologies, and political resistance are ultimately fleshly matters.

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Bodies of Knowledge

The Medicalization of Reproduction in Greece

Eugenia Georges

The author, a second-generation Greek American, returned to Greece with her young daughter to do fieldwork over the course of a decade. Focusing on Rhodes, an island that blends continuity with the past and rapid social change in often unexpected ways, she interviewed over a hundred women, doctors, and midwives about issues of reproduction. The result is a detailed portrait of how a longstanding system of “local” gynecological and obstetrical knowledge under the control of women was rapidly displaced in the period following World War II, and how the technologically-intensive biomedical model that took its place in turn assumed its own distinctive signature. Bodies of Knowledge is a vivid ethnographic study of how a presumably globalizing and homogenizing process like medicalization can be reshaped as women and medical experts alike selectively accept or reject new practices and technologies. Georges found, for example, that women in Rhodes have enthusiastically embraced some new technologies, like fetal imaging during pregnancy, but rejected others, like medical contraception. They are also avid consumers of popular childbirth manuals. This book is the recipient of the 2006 Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best project in the area of medicine.

Bodies That Remember Cover

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Bodies That Remember

Women's Indigenous Knowledge and Cosmopolitanism in South Asian Poetry

Anita Anantharam is assistant professor of women's studies at the University of Florida

An engaging and informative exploration of four women poets writing in Hindi and Urdu over the course of the twentieth century in India and Pakistan. Anantharam follows the authors and their works, as both countries undergo profound political and social transformations. The book tells of how these women forge solidarities with women from different, castes, classes, and religions through their poetry.

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Body as Evidence

Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender

Analyzes how race and gender intersect in the rhetoric and imagery of popular culture in the early twenty-first century. In Body as Evidence, Janell Hobson challenges postmodernist dismissals of identity politics and the delusional belief that the Millennial era reflects a “postracial” and “postfeminist” world. Hobson points to diverse examples in cultural narratives, which suggest that new media rely on old ideologies in the shaping of the body politic. Body as Evidence creates a theoretical mash-up of prose and poetry to illuminate the ways that bodies still matter as sites of political, cultural, and digital resistance. It does so by examining various representations, from popular shows like American Idol to public figures like the Obamas to high-profile cases like the Duke lacrosse rape scandal to current trends in digital culture. Hobson’s study also discusses the women who have fueled and retooled twenty-first-century media to make sense of antiracist and feminist resistance. Her discussions include the electronica of Janelle Monáe, M.I.A., and Björk; the feminist film odysseys of Wanuri Kahiu and Neloufer Pazira; and the embodied resistance found simply in raising one’s voice in song, creating a blog, wearing a veil, stripping naked, or planting a tree. Spinning knowledge out of this information overload, Hobson offers a global black feminist meditation on how our bodies mobilize, destabilize, and decolonize the meanings of race and gender in an increasingly digitized and globalized world.

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