The Abstracts — Femspec 3.1, Vol 3, Issue 1, 2001

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EDITORIAL REMARKS:

Editor’s Remarks by Batya Weinbaum

CRITICISM:

Millennial Mothers: Reproduction, Race and Ethnicity in Feminist Dystopian Fiction by Dorian Cirrone
The author discusses Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night (1937) written in Great Britain while fascism was on the rise; Suzy McKee Charnas’s Walk to the End of the World (1974) written when feminism was in full voice in the US; Zoe Fairbairn’s Benefits (1979) written in Great Britain in the midst over the Wages for Housework debate; and Atwood’s The Handmade’s Tale (1985) written in Canada as an expression of the Reagan years in the US. She argues that although the times, places and circumstances in which these authors were writing varied considerably, their concerns were similar, especially in regard to their depiction of women as defined by their functions of reproduction and mothering.

The Resurrection of Morgan le Fey: Fallen Women to Triple Goddess by Theresa Crater
Arthurian legends have been retold many times, with each century emphasizing different parts of the story and presenting characters in various lights. Authors in the second part of the twentieth century focused on Morgan le Fey, transforming her from a fallen, wicked woman, to a leader of an alternative community. This reconstruction, the author argues, is due in a large part to the feminist movement.

Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife: A Space for Complementary Subjects by Robin Murray
The author discusses feminist goals in dismantling hierarchies in texts such as Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Gearhart’s Wanderground, using Devine’s notion that the focus on displacing the masculine as center results in a feminine subject that is not attached to nature. She contends that Windling’s The Wood Wife offers an alternative to this paradigm. She explores the ecofeminist context of this use of magical realism and discusses the novel as an arena in which the human/nature relationship can be examined more fruitfully.

Intersubjectivity and Difference in Feminist Ecotopias by Susan Stratton
Stratton acknowledges that ecofeminism, feminism, and the ecology movement have existed outside of academe decades before the field of ecocriticism became a recognizable movement among professors of literature in the 1990s. She hopes that now that literary criticism has embraced feminism and is opening to ecocriticism, that it may be ready for ecofeminism, and examines recent criticism and feminist utopias which she calls ecotopias in this light.

Women’s Horror as Erotic Transgression by Gina Wisker
Contemporary women’s radical horror writing critiques social conventions, and also challenges the conventional formulae of horror. The celebration of the eroticism that occurs in this genre is, according to the author, essentially creative and liberating. Such writing refuses the value systems that underlie oppressive ideology in fictional and filmic formulations. The newly emerging genre of women’s horror also denies the destructive polarities of male/female, good/bad, passive/active, and life/death. The authors in this mode refuse to script women as victims, hags or femme fatales, and are reinstating forms of power. The author examines works by Angela Carter, Pat Califia, Katherine Forrest and Cheri Scotch in order to substantiate her views.

FICTION:

Ovum by Martha Marinara
This futuristic fiction begins with a first-time mother being kidnapped by soldiers out of uniform, armed and not well-camouflaged. The birthing mother is a scientist who had impregnated one egg with another and hence, had created a female being without the use of a male. The baby is born and raised in a laboratory, and develops psychic powers that confound genetic engineers who are responsible for her.

POETRY:

Orpheus by Moira McAuliffe
McAuliffe gives voice to Persephone and other women who perceive Orpheus on his way in to the underworld where the shapeless mouth of a negation/swallowed his eyes. The retelling of his contact with Eurydice is set against a world that remained unchanged when he returned from the underworld where the rivers were still branches of stone/and the sea was bitten metal. Serial women voices describe him as out of the wild, and back from the dead. They wash him and his clothes, take away his flute, and nurse him, drying his clothes on stones/feeding him, talking to him/playing with him like a child in the sun. The women, often depicted as background only in Greek myth, here are interpreted as performing an important function: Orpheus called the world together with music/but we knitted it/with light. It is an important poem in the process of feminist reclamations of the classics and mythic revisioning.

Katherine Murphy by Leonard Trawick
Kate was a poet in her fifties returning to get a degree, allowing her to teach poetry in the schools. She is remembered by Leonard Trawick in an introduction to her work as a person of great humor, joie de vivre, kindness and generosity. She pursued numerous modes of survival, including working as a medical record keeper and in the theater. She edited both Whiskey Island and The Journal (at Ohio State University where she went on for an MFA), and won an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Award for her poetry in 1998.

Not Remembering My Childhood by Katherine Murphy
Remembering a domestic moment of shopping for food, returning home with the food, and simmering memories in the pot like red beans in the forgotten, the author tries to remember her first moment and connects with a fantasy moment, in which her bones are silver.

Dreading Dissection by Katherine Murphy
A discussion of the body as the place/you come back to references the dead taken back from horror films.

To A Friend Afraid of Flying by Katherine Murphy
A discussion of life as a map/open, roads drawn in a design/through contrasting states/a web/dragging ends past margins/flyers never see.

A Map of the United States of America by Cristian Salazar
A Mexican-born poet from Cuernavaca now living in the US, positions a young meztiza woman in a high school contest standing up in the middle of an auditorium to burn a black shape like a gun on the screen overhead, her hand holding a knife, cutting a square heart shape out of the United States map when asked to locate and draw the location of the Hopi Reservation.

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS:

Clare Winger Harris and The Fifth Dimension by Richard Lupoff
SF writer Lupoff introduces the Clare Winger Harris story that contains three characters, and is set in the home of a married couple, Ellen and John, an unusual setting for a story that appeared in the early US sf pulps more often replete with whiz-techs and space operas. He relates her story to later Chaos Theory as developed in the world of physics.

Excerpts from The Fifth Dimension by Clare Winger Harris
Here is intense interaction in sharp realist prose of a woman who believes in the cycles of time, and sees her neighbor Mrs. Maxwell in a déjà vu. She has a premonition that her neighbor shouldn’t go into her garage. She tells herself not to be silly, doesn’t warn the neighbor, and then the neighbor dies when the garage burns. When this housewife’s husband prepares to go on a business trip, he condescendingly thinks she is just making something up because she is afraid to be alone. She reminds him of the death of the neighbor, which she foresaw, and descends into hopelessness. She begins sobbing hysterically, and her husband changes his mind and decides not to go. The news arrives that the train he would have gone on if his wife had not detained him, crashed. The husband explains it all scientifically to her and offers to buy her a fur coat. Still a product of its times, the story shows a woman thinking, understanding, and discussing theory and scientific concepts, and validates women’s psychic perceptions.

ART:

Untitled by Jennifer Jones

Domestic Violence by Shoshana Tomberg

Untitled by Jennifer Jones

REVIEWS:

Review of Teaching toward the 24th Century by Bruce Beatie
This book is based on Karen Anijar’s 1994 dissertation and contains a valuable body of interviews, mostly with high school teachers. The quotations from these interviews the reviewer finds fascinating, and often quite frightening in their fanaticism.

Review of Turning on the Girls by Ritch Calvin
The reviewer finds this novel to be sometimes constructing an ideal society, and at other times, marking feminine characteristics and matriarchal values. The novel centers on Lisa, a young woman employed by the Ministry of Thought, who acquires a male assistant. All is not well in the New Order. The oppressed men get together and study the history from which they have been erased, as occurs in Egalia’s Daughters. Lisa and her assistant team up to stifle the counterrevolution.

Review of The Jigsaw Woman by Lisa Hake
The reviewer finds this book to be a blend of magical realism and mythology, a fast-paced romp from one mind expanding sexual episode to another. Three women who constitute the singular main character reappear in her past. She is able to go in and out of their bodies, helping them to give birth and to warn them of impending dangers.

Review of Goja: An Autobiographical Novel by Phillipa Kafka
A poet, fabulist and essayist, Suniti Najoshi was born in India in 1941. She grew up critical of the class system even though she benefited from it as well. In an extended fantasy sequence, through a three-way dialogue between grandmother, servant and author, Goja tries to resolve some of her issues, including noticing gender inequality, male dominance, racism, and lesbianism.

Review of Witches of the Atlantic World by Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt
The reviewer finds this book to include a variety of important contributions to the study of witchcraft persecutions in the early modern world. The collection encourages readers to consider witch hunting as an Atlantic phenomenon. She finds the book admirable for its commitment to providing an Atlantic view of the witch craze. The primary sources provided in the volume might be helpful to those creating fiction. These include Kramer and Sprenger’s Malleus Maleficarum and Carlo Ginzburg’s The Night Battles.

Review of Islands of Women and Amazons by Emmy Levine
Levine finds Weinbaum’s volume to be an enjoyable and readable study, interdisciplinary and comprehensive in approach. She also notes the connection of the topic to contemporary socioeconomic and cultural issues. The Amazon archetype is brought into the realm of life experience, through ethnography into Isla Mujeres in Mexico. She quotes other reviewers’ assessments of her in-depth exploration of the Amazon archetype, a symbol that pervades many cultures and has influenced views of women and women’s culture.

Review of Behind the Blue Gate by Darlene Pagan
Pagan notes that Carol Rose’s poetry explores the bounds of culture, national and religion, and hales her as one of the most promising Manitoba writers. The collection reflects the poet’s studies and interests in religion, and international cross-cultural communication, particularly from her perspective as a Jewish feminist. As the reviewer summarizes, Tending towards linguistic economy, a lyric style, and a formal range, Behind the Blue Gate represents Rose’s mastery of craft and the sensual possibilities of language.

A Ramble through Fantasy Land by Elizabeth Pandolfo Briggs
The reviewer finds this a unique book that looks at science fiction, children’s literature, and popular culture, and offers insights into coming-of-age in fantasyland. The author Gary Westfahl, whose volume is reviewed, analyzes children’s literature to see how its message affects adults. The book reads like a collection of essays about some books which the author might have read as a child, but which no longer seem relevant to the reviewer. Some books discussed include Hardy Boys and the Choose Your Own Adventure series. How Superman’s tripartite identity contradicts western philosophy of unified identity is very American, is also explored.

Review of Mary Shelley’s Fictions by Donna Burns Phillips
The reviewer finds this collection to be for those who are well-versed in the entire Shelley corpus, as she explores the essays mostly by British scholars. Various versions of Frankenstein are discussed in the essay by Nora Crook, for example. In the section on gender, Anne-Lise Francois and Daniel Mozes offer a provocative reading of Mathilde, and other titles and issues are discussed.

Review of In the Footsteps of the Goddess by Annis V. Pratt
These personal stories edited and illustrated by Cristina Biaggi, record what happened when women in the early 1970s were first becoming conscious of how the patriarchal world and everything we had been taught in society all contained weapons honed by men to use against us. That is, women began talking to each other in small groups, listening, and the fragmented and degraded bits of goddess imagery that we came across in our research had to be retold to empower us. The book Biaggi produced from such materials, the reviewer says, is the kind of book you want to carry with on your travels and dip into meditatively. She has collected definitions of the Goddess, and personal stories by women and men who have learned celebration by coming into contact with goddess imagery.

Review of White Turtle by Karen Schneider
These are stories, not all fantasy, but even the ones that are not by Merlinda Bobis take on fantastic quality due to their frequent use of elaborate and/or unexpected metaphor. For example, in the first story, An Earnest Parable, a communal tongue is shared by five neighborhood families of different ethnicity. Bobus, a Filipina living in Australia and writing in English spliced with other languages, relishes their multicultural origins and speaks as if through a universal translator.

Review of Mothering in the African Diaspora by Gina Wisker
Wisker’s review of this special issue of the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering stresses beliefs and inspirations related to the mythical and spiritual in texts, and other cultural representations. For example, she comments on Mackey’s essay on how motherly love is an act of resistance in Beloved. Mackey uses psychoanalytic theory to explain the return of the Imaginary, the ghost of the departed child, when Paul D. arrives.

Review of The Bitch is Back by Batya Weinbaum
The bitch has appeared as an archetype in world literature over the centuries, recognizable as the monstrous presence in Greek tragedy. This review of Sarah Appleton Aguiar’s reclamation of the archetype suggests a lens to review work by Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, and Mary Daly, Adreinne-Rich style.

Review of Inanna: Lady of the Largest Heart by Batya Weinbaum
Inanna was a goddess who celebrated her vulva, founded horticulture, and collected all the principles of her culture into her boat of culture, as the introducing poet Judy Grahn tells us in this remarkable volume valuable for teaching writing for performance, the possible boundaries of female imagination, and the roots of matriarchal pre-classical literature. Scholars familiar with the oral literature of India’s earth goddesses and Kali, will notice similar characteristics as recorded by the poet Enheduanna, High Priestess of the Moon God of the City of Ur, the city from which Abraham and Sara exited over five-hundred years later. This Sumerian poet on a timeline lived seventeen-hundred years before Sappho, and about eleven-hundred years before Homer. Inanna has already influenced canonical writers in American literature, and she will more, after the publication of this volume, according to the reviewer.

Review of From Moon Goddesses to Virgins by Batya Weinbaum
The reviewer finds this exploration of the colonization of Yucatecan-Mayan sexual desire to possibly provide models for sf writers, feminist and otherwise, to extrapolate from in imagining other cultural forms of the organization of sexual desire and expression. The book is perhaps the first manuscript to study Mayan sexual desire through Mayan language documents. In particular, the female figure of the Moon Goddess is discussed.

Review of The Lieutenant Nun by Batya Weinbaum
Sherry Velasco’s exploration of transgenderism, lesbian desire, and Catalina Erauso, explores hybrid spectacles, monsters and how transvestite narratives function by tracing adaptations of the Lieutenant Nun figure in literature, theater, iconography, and cinema. Velasco shows how the male disguise provides many advantages and almost always empowers women in men’s clothing. Cross-cultural fantasies of cross-dressing women are explored by examining the popular representations of her throughout the ages.

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