6 jun. 2011

Gender Balance

Since I am not that interested in most strains and varieties of feminist criticism, I tend to deal with female authors just because they are ones I happen to be interested in. I want to deal with them more or less as I would with male authors, without any kind of special pleading. Most criticism on male authors doesn't deal with gender at all, so having to make most criticism of women authors feminist already means that there is a differential treatment. I've proposed before that we should highlight gender in male authors and pretty much ignore it in female ones, just to correct the balance. We might start by gratuitously putting the word "male" in front of male authors, like "Federico García Lorca is one of the most significant male authors in Spanish literature." Sounds funny, right? Good, that's the point. By the same token, we might refer to Baraka as a poet and Frank O'Hara as a "white poet."

Anyway, if I devote myself to poets I am interested in, without respect to gender, I still end up with about a 75 / 25 ratio in favor of my own gender. (The Lorca book was pretty male dominated too, with an even greater masculinist slant.) The female authors I've written about, including my current book in progress, are Concha García, María Zambrano, Blanca Varela, Olvido García Valdés, Lola Velasco, and a few others. I am also interested in a few that I haven't written about yet.

So I've added a chapter in my book in which I address the problem of female subjectivity and modernism. Basically, the idea is to reflect on why (certain forms of) modernism seems to be at odds with ideas s of female subjectivity, insofar as these tend to fall into more realist modes. I'm going to contrast the Anglo-American mode, in which women writers played a more prominent role, with the Hispanic one. I'm using this as an excuse to buy Duncan's H.D. Book, which I wanted to buy anyway.

13 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

Try it with philosophers, too: "Friedrich Nietzsche was the most influential male philosopher of the late nineteenth century." (Not worrying about the factuality of the rest of the statement.)

Or this one: "Bill Clinton, the male American President, ..."

Professor Zero dijo...

"Most criticism on male authors doesn't deal with gender at all"

...because the unmarked category is taken to be universal. Working on gender in women authors isn't done so as to treat them as less than but because it's an issue. To work on it in male authors "for the sake of balance" would be sort of pointless, I suspect.

But if one took gender seriously, someone like Neruda would become even more laughable than he already is. And some light might be shed on a hard to read person like Vallejo, who is quite twisted up on gender. (There's some work in that direction but more could stand to be done.)

I'll be curious to see what you think of the HD book - I keep eyeing it.

Jonathan dijo...

I think you could come up with very interesting gender criticism of male authors, precisely because it hasn't been looked at, except, of course, to look at their misogyny. Your example of Vallejo is an interesting one. I wish someone would write about that.

Vance Maverick dijo...

How about the author of
"Claudio Rodríguez and the Writing of the Masculine Body"?

I'm the last person who should be lecturing you, Jonathan, but your opening sallies in this post don't make a lot of sense. It's possible to be interested in all varieties of feminist criticism, and yet deal with female authors simply when you "happen to" be interested in their work; likewise to care for only one variety of feminist criticism, and to deal with female authors only insofar as they further the one variety you care about. And the reference to "special pleading" borders on the offensive.

Jonathan dijo...

What I trying with so little felicity to say was that I wasn't motivated to work on women writers because of an interest in feminist literary criticism per se. Since that's not my primary motivation, I tend not to want to overplay gender in my analysis. The gender authorship of the text is not the most relevant factor when I'm dealing with a woman author. I don't want to be in the position where I would be doing any "special pleading." I didn't accuse anyone else of doing that, so I don't know who I'd be on the verge of offending, exactly.

Professor Zero dijo...

Well, the choice of phrase did seem to imply that the use of feminist critical viewpoints would be to reveal value or interest where it wouldn't otherwise be evident. When the real reason to use it would be if it shed interesting light, regardless of the sex/gender of the author in question.

There is or was this English professor, Tace Hedrick, who did a little work on Vallejo at one point from a feminist theory pov. Not to say he was feminist or to reveal misogyny but to talk, as I remember, about the way voice was constructed in some of the poems.

I may work on this -- once I either flunk the LSAT or don't, and/or find out that despite a good LSAT I still don't get into a good program, and/or find out that I really can't bridge the financial aid gap I know will exist. If I fail at any of these three points, I'll come back into academia full on, and this will be one of the things I do.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Well, emphasis on "borders". But the suggestion was that any "feminist" thinking about women authors entailed inflating their virtues by specially pleading the circumstance of their femininity. (Where as we know, there are many feminisms, including the basic one I know as the "Katha Pollitt definition": when asked, "Are women human beings?", a feminist is one who answers Yes.)

All of which snipings would throw bullets of heavier caliber, of course, coming from someone who was female, spoke Spanish, taught or studied literature, knew something about literary or feminist theory, or indeed read books.

Jonathan dijo...

By only working on female authors I am intensely interested in, I never have to do so for insincere reasons or make arguments I don't really believe in. If you asked me to write about another woman or two just to provide some gender balance to my book, I might have to engage in some arguments that I wouldn't support in other contexts, hence "special pleading." I did a whole section of the Twlight of the Avant-Garde on women poets quite sincerely, but it was still only a third of the book. Because I'm basically a high modernist, I am at odds with a lot of feminist criticism that sets itself up against that literary school.

Professor Zero dijo...

But, do you really have an editor insisting on "gender balance" and no other press willing to publish the book?

Especially since you don't read feminist theory, what makes you think there might be some "strain" of it that would make the inclusion of writers that otherwise don't fit into a particular project, look valid?

[I don't mean to needle ya, I'm just on break from studying for the LSAT and there is something about the logic in this post and followup that does not follow - there's some hedging going on that I don't know how to name yet.]

Jonathan dijo...

I never stated I don't read haven't read feminist theory, or that it was pressure from an editor that made me want to include more women, or that I needed to find a strain of feminist theory that would justify working on female writers. Those three propositions are not true.It may be the case that there is some hedging going on in my original post, because I am still struggling to define my exact position. Needle me about that as much as you want.

Andrew Shields dijo...

"It may be the case that there is some hedging going on in my original post, because I am still struggling to define my exact position."

That exemplifies what I try to tell my students: if you're hedging, you haven't worked out your ideas completely yet!

Jonathan dijo...

That is so true, Andrew. I allow myself that luxury on the blog. If you want my finished positions you'll have to wait for the book to come out.

Spanish prof dijo...

I know nothing about your topic, Jonathan, but going back to Professor Zero suggestion, Tace Hedrick has a book called "Mestizo Modernism" that you might find worth exploring.