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The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction

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"Fetterley's questions are often so crucial, her observations repeatedly so acute, that they force us to ask how we avoided them in the past." --Women's Studies International Quarterly ..". thoughtful, informed, and well written." --Choice


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"Fetterley's questions are often so crucial, her observations repeatedly so acute, that they force us to ask how we avoided them in the past." --Women's Studies International Quarterly ..". thoughtful, informed, and well written." --Choice

30 review for The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Maginity

    This was a very nice palate cleanser after a book of pretty sexist critics on Ulysses and Farheinheit 451. I enjoyed most of it and found it to be a good reminder of strategies to take as a feminist critic, but it didn't change my life. I think a part of my ambivalent reaction to it comes from the way she ended it having failed to live up to her promise of showing us how The American Dream could be repurposed as radically feminist. What she did instead was analyze Mailer's proudly and violently This was a very nice palate cleanser after a book of pretty sexist critics on Ulysses and Farheinheit 451. I enjoyed most of it and found it to be a good reminder of strategies to take as a feminist critic, but it didn't change my life. I think a part of my ambivalent reaction to it comes from the way she ended it having failed to live up to her promise of showing us how The American Dream could be repurposed as radically feminist. What she did instead was analyze Mailer's proudly and violently chauvinist hellscape but then she didn't get to the redemption! I just feel a little queasy now. A positive, forward-looking feeling that came of this is that I am thoroughly convinced that I need to get elbow deep in some Henry James. He's appeared in some other criticism I've read recently and astonishingly all I've ever read by him are fragments of The Turn of the Screw. Looking forward to meatier feminist crit in the future. ✌️

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Salazar

    More theory and less close reading would have been nice.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I'm sure this is a tiresome strategy by now, but it works for me to record why I'm reading these books.... This one I've been meaning to read since I read the introduction in Mary Ann Wilson's feminist theory class a decade ago, and I could never since understand why I couldn't find a copy, since it seemed like a really novel approach, a specifically gender centered take on reader-response. I did find a copy, at the woman-centered college here in town, which makes sense, but the book doesn't quit I'm sure this is a tiresome strategy by now, but it works for me to record why I'm reading these books.... This one I've been meaning to read since I read the introduction in Mary Ann Wilson's feminist theory class a decade ago, and I could never since understand why I couldn't find a copy, since it seemed like a really novel approach, a specifically gender centered take on reader-response. I did find a copy, at the woman-centered college here in town, which makes sense, but the book doesn't quite do what I'd long hoped-- I wanted a manual on how to become the resisting reader, what strategies were at work, how you located those nodes from which to resist and read against the grain, what stories were in fact told when you read the book this way. Doesn't that sound like a book of theory you'd like to read? Me too. That's not this book, though. Instead, it's a collection of resistant readings, which I think means that Fetterley first exposes the patriarchal politics that are the thematic content of these canonical works, and then shows the ways in which these patriarchal politics distort the reality of lived existence. There are places here where this is a progressive scheme tied to history, as in the willingness to acknowledge the truth about women's oppression increases the closer we get to the present day, at least more or less, with the short stories. But this is only a partial progression-- honestly, the chapters on novels, the last four of the book, didn't seem to develop a progression that I could see, nor are they precisely in chronological order (which does make me ask why they are in this order, but that's a sort of side question). I think I'm pretty sympathetic to reading these canonical works as expressing some pretty retrograde views on gender, and even being built on such ideas. But I'm not sure that Fetterley's readings are entirely convincing to me-- they are forceful and vehement, but to me often lack adequate textual evidence and make a lot of leaps that are abrupt and occasionally jarring-- one gets the sense that Fetterley has memorized all of these novels and expects the same of the reader who will follow her argument, since she leaves out a lot of connective tissue. For those works I was more familiar with, mostly the short stories, many of which I've taught and therefore naturally know better, she draws conclusions that I'm not sure are accurate-- for example, the reasoning she gives why no one wants to confront Emily (in A Rose for Emily) about the smell in her house isn't the the one I'd give. And her claim that that story isn't about the passage of time seems, well, on the face of it a little contrary, to criticism but also the story itself and most of Faulkner's work. There are other moments in Fetterley's readings that are bold but also seem, at least to me, a little wrong headed. That said, her reading of The Bostonians, which I don't have very crisp memories of, is detailed and feels sharp and about right. In other words, I think that's almost a model chapter of what a really self-aware political feminist critic can do. I'd assign this chapter to all my students if it didn't mean that they had to read The Bostonians to follow it. There's also a remarkable moment in Fetterley's chapter on Mailer's An American Dream when she brings in Valerie Solanis that is, honest to God, inspired. It's a perfect historical intervention, and I think Fetterley uses it well-- it makes the rest of the chapter a little bit of a letdown, after that early strike. Anyhow, it's easier now to understand why this book isn't available everywhere and widely cited-- it's got an intriguing premise, but in the working through, it's more idiosyncratic than it is systematic, and unless you're Fetterley herself, it's hard to imagine using this strategy to open up other texts.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Coalton

    "American literature is male. To read the canon of what is currently considered classic American literature is perforce to identify as male. Though exceptions to this generalization can be found here and there - a Dickinson poem, a Wharton novel - these exceptions usually function to obscure the argument and confuse the issue: American literature is male." (xii) Fetterley groups THE ENTIRE AMERICAN LITERARY CANON into a gender. Negating even Flannery O'Connor, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison and o "American literature is male. To read the canon of what is currently considered classic American literature is perforce to identify as male. Though exceptions to this generalization can be found here and there - a Dickinson poem, a Wharton novel - these exceptions usually function to obscure the argument and confuse the issue: American literature is male." (xii) Fetterley groups THE ENTIRE AMERICAN LITERARY CANON into a gender. Negating even Flannery O'Connor, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison and other women writers who wrote female stories about women. I have to read this and write a reading log on it and it pisses me off because all of it is just wrong. Pages and pages of wrong. I mean...this was written in the 1960s...there had already been several valid women writers and female narratives by the 1900s alone. Hell, by the 1800s. My professor must have been like "this will piss Coalton off, I will assign this," because I discuss things a lot in my senior seminar and, oh boy, I am going to deconstruct the living shit out of this garbage. "Our literature neither leaves women alone, nor allows them to participate. It insists on its universality at the same time that it defines that universality in specifically male terms." (xii) OH SO THAT'S why when the protagonist teenage girl in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has a chapter on her first period and how she realizes she's becoming a woman...BECAUSE ALL LITERATURE IS MALE!!! That's why The Awakening by Kate Chopin's protagonist woman has trouble and conflict showing her sexuality to other men...cuz IT"S ABOUT MEN!!! Eudora Welty stories, with black women and white women struggling through segragation, lost love or illness...Katherine Ann-Porter stories about families impoverished or living lives of crime in the South to get by... NONE OF THIS MATTERS. UUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I'm so done. I'm so mad. This woman is awful. I knew from the moment I read the first quote that I linked that this was going to be bullshit. It's so absolute. As Obi-Wan said in Episode III: "Only the Sith deal in absolutes." It helps that the more I think about this shit the more I remember stories and books that refute her. Why I Live at the P.O., I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, A Worn Path, The Awakening, Pale Horse Pale Rider, Beloved...all of these examples refute this "critique." You're wrong, Fetterley. You're so wrong. Go be wrong somewhere else and get out of my senior seminar!!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anne P. D.

    I hope to continue re-reading this book. I don't think I will ever tire of reading her well thought out, brilliantly written observations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aida Hussen

    Standard second-wave fare in feminist literary theory. Solid writing and analysis, but mostly old hat for those of us who have been reading this sub-genre for years.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Rowland

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  9. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  10. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leo

  12. 4 out of 5

    Keith

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julia

  14. 5 out of 5

    William

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Riley

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy Fairgrieve

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Cunningham

  19. 4 out of 5

    Angies

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Kyle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Magnus

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Carroll

  25. 5 out of 5

    Latifa Al-hajeri

  26. 4 out of 5

    C

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Prendergast

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adam Helmintoller

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marypags

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marla

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