Heroines

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Heroines Women's Studies
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I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form ofrepression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order--pretending an objectivity wherethere is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning overliterature."--from Heroines

On the last day of December,2009 Kate Zambreno began a blog called Frances Farmer Is My Sister, arising fromher obsession with the female modernists and her recent transplantation to Akron, Ohio, where herhusband held a university job. Widely reposted, Zambreno's blog became an outlet for her highlyinformed and passionate rants about the fates of the modernist "wives and mistresses." Inher blog entries, Zambreno reclaimed the traditionally pathologized biographies of Vivienne Eliot,Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, and Zelda Fitzgerald: writers and artists themselves who served as malewriters' muses only to end their lives silenced, erased, and institutionalized. Over the course oftwo years, Frances Farmer Is My Sister helped create a community where today's"toxic girls" could devise a new feminist discourse, writing in the margins and developingan alternative canon.

In Heroines, Zambreno extends the polemicbegun on her blog into a dazzling, original work of literary scholarship. Combing theories that havedictated what literature should be and who is allowed to write it--from T. S. Eliot's New Criticismto the writings of such mid-century intellectuals as Elizabeth Hardwick and Mary McCarthy to theoccasional "girl-on-girl crime" of the Second Wave of feminism--she traces the genesis ofa cultural template that consistently exiles female experience to the realm of the"minor," and diagnoses women for transgressing social bounds. "ANXIETY: When sheexperiences it, it's pathological," writes Zambreno. "When he does, it'sexistential." By advancing the Girl-As-Philosopher, Zambreno reinvents feminism for hergeneration while providing a model for a newly subjectivized criticism.

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