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INTRODUCTION In an earlier issue of mr, Margaret Randall remembered how as a poet/midwife in Mexico City in the mid-sixties, experiences involving women's strength, childbirth, my relationships to my own children, or simply my condition as a woman slowly and painfully beginning to emerge from a shell of conditioning, began to find a place in what I wrote. Yet it was still the individual event, the unique "I." The communal "we" was not yet a part of my woman's experience. Nor did I know a movement was brewing, [mr, NS 26 (Spring 1986) p. 14] The essays, poems and fiction in this issue of mr explore the territory Randall 's earlier essay mapped out: feminism ("my condition as a woman slowly and painfully beginning to emerge from a shell of conditioning"), psychoanalysis ("my condition as a woman ... my relationships to my own children ... the unique T "), and cultural critique ("a movement . . . brewing"). The poets are, like Randall, the midwives for this volume. From the domestic and political scenes interwoven in "Cook Book" through the exploration of the contradictions exploited and surmounted to become "A Happy Kid," the poets introduce the subject elaborated in our short stories and theorized by our four essayists: the complicated negotiations feminism demands and enables between our individual and collective identities , our personal challenges and satisfactions and our (both compromised and deepened) social struggles. That "feminism" has no essential meaning, any more than "psychoanalysis " or (especially) "cultural critique," the various voices in these essays confirm; their projects range from self-critical feminist practice to theory-building, their focus from popular culture to high canonical literature. Yet we can isolate several strategies shared by the essayists in this special issue, as a way of mapping out our particular part of that territory marked by the mr subtitle: "A journal of committed writing." All four essays stage dialogic encounters, as if to embody the act of negotiation in relationship central to the feminist position. Hirsch and Kaplan both address the mother-daughter relation, the former to explore the crucial enabling role it can play in a woman writer's development and to warn us of the potentially dangerous temptations of that crucial reciprocal nourishment, the latter to consider the pathological way society has deployed debased Freudian representation of the mother-daughter relation to defend against the primitive terror the maternal image invokes. Kaplan's ensuing exploration of the maternal experience in postmodern culture and society further alerts us to the vulnerability of any oppositional construction of feminism in face of the co-opting power of late capitalist discourse. And the encounter Hirsch stages with Walker's text and testimony challenges the "antihumanist, postmodern [vision] of an alienated subject divided in language and against itself" in the name of a pragmatic model of identity creation built on "affiliation, bonding and connection." Yaeger and Burke focus on textual relations as a strategy of political and literary emancipation in the works of a foremother and a contemporary. While Yaeger locates the (previously overlooked) pleasure of Wollstonecraft's text in her strategic appropriation and subjugation of Rousseau's, and generates in so doing a model for feminist dialogics, Burke explores Irigaray's recourse to sexualized textuality as a way of enabling feminism to penetrate and subvert philosophical discourse. The resultant elemental discourse charts a new bodily philosophy. Feminist psychoanalytic theories of identity construction suggest that women achieve maturity with the ability and need for more than dyadic relations. It is striking, then, that all our essayists stage their feminist explorations as moments of triangulation: Wollstonecraft, in debate with Rousseau, discovers the women of England; Walker, exploring the forces that keep her from writing, discovers her daughter; post-war daughters, in film and in society, encounter the mother only to take refuge in the realm of the Father. This triangulation is surely in part a function of our threefold focus, on feminism, psychoanalysis, and cultural critiques, yet that focus itself reflects the triangular pull we ourselves feel to the personal and the political simultaneously. If the essayists acknowledge the power of those categories, moreover, they also escape them. While most of us are ready to question the privileging of...


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