RARA-AVIS: Re: Women rewriting

From: Victoria Esposito-Shea ( victoria@esposito-shea.com)
Date: 27 May 2000

>Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course ... are there readers who are
exceptions as well? Yes to
>that as well. Maybe I'm the exception to the rule
>... some inherent psychic ability that tells me who the author is and it
actually has nothing to do with
>the writing, but being able to tell the difference in the writing
perspectives is just the most rational
>interpretation of that psychic knowledge ... I don't think so.
>"Written on the Body" by Jeanette Winterson is touted by the literati as a
novel who's protagonist is
>genderless and Ms Winterson is praised for her superior writing ability at
being able to successfully
>accomplish this ... but from my reading perspective the protagonist is
obviously a woman. To
>"give" specifics (if such things exist) would require a rereading, but the
mannerisms and view are
>obviously not male ... well, the character isn't a male then what's left
for the character to be?
>I'll look into the works you've listed and those that others have listed
and take notes while reading
>them ... see what I can come up with. But while I do that ... maybe some
of you believe there is no
>difference can come up with quantifiable evidence supporting your view
beyond your opinion that it's
>so as well (that is what y'all are asking me to after all ... turn about
is fair play) ... prove me wrong. :)

So, the smart thing to do would be to leave this discussion to die. But I can't help noticing that you're completely contradicting yourself here; in the initial post, by stating that Grafton, Paretsky, etc., weren't really
"written in a female voice" or "from a female perspective", you were stating that there's something beyond XX chromosomes--in these cases, of both reader and protagonist--that, to you, marks a "female perspective".
 Now, you're stating that "if the character isn't a male, then what's left for the character to be?" This seems to indicate that by default, female characters speak from what you seem to be mentioning as some kind of monolithic female voice. (And I am completely with Jess' earlier comments on the multiplicity of female voices that are out there.) You can't have it both ways--either you need "XX-plus" which you claim not to have found in Grafton et al., or you just need XX.

And as far as that goes, I'd argue that as far as stereotypical notions of femaleness (such as those found in Freud and to a lesser degree Jung) go, many of those elements are present in Paretsky, Grafton, and Muller (and to a lesser degree in Maxine O'Callaghan). You get these very relational novels, with a lot of concern about family and friends, and a lot more background about the main characters themselves, than you do in the
"traditional" PI novel. (If you take the time to read what Grafton and Paretsky have written about their own work, in fact, you'll see that they started out as a very deliberate subversion of many of the conventions of the "traditional" work.) I'm not saying that this makes them hardboiled per se, but I think calling them "men with dresses" is, um, wrong.

Okay, Bill, I'm through with this. Honest. Vicky

Victoria Esposito-Shea, J.D. Legal Research and Writing

New and improved site at http://www.esposito-shea.com

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