"Turning the Century": Feminist Theory in the 1990s
This volume of literary and cultural theory continues certain debates that dominated feminism in the early 1980s. those were formative years for academic feminism in the U.S. because a critical mass of feminist scholars were promoted or granted tenure; black, Chicana, and other "Third World" feminists solidified a separate power base; multicultural feminist organizations such as the National Women's Studies Association came of age; and French feminist works were published in English translation for the first time. The traditional concerns of feminism - how to analyze women's oppression and act politically to end it - were moved to a new level of complexity as an understanding of women's differences became practically and theoretically more urgent and feminists were empowered in startling and unprecedented ways. The writers anthologized here do not all speak in the same voice, but they do all address the issues of difference so eloquently articulated by Bernice Johnson Reagon in 1981: How do we think about difference, and how do we build an effective feminist movement around it? That year, Reagon spoke at the West Coast Women's Music Festival, and a few years later reworked her presentation for inclusion in Barbara Smith's Home Girls. Subtitled "Turning the Century," Reagon's talk was about the difference between feeling at home in feminism, between having "a space that is 'yours only' - just for the people you want to be there," and crossing what she called "first people boundaries" to make a revolution - that is, "really doing coalition work," the crucial work for feminists as we look forward to the twenty-first century. Now, in 1992, some people would say the gaps - racial, cultural, political, and discursive - between Bernice Johnson Reagon and most academic feminists in the 1990s are absolutely unbridgeable. Which may well be true. But those very gaps also signify not the irrelevance to academic feminists of Reagon and the variety of streetwise black feminism she represents (or vice versa), but compelling reasons to attend closely to her analysis. In "Turning the Century," Reagon asked feminists (including academic feminists) to examine three major issues: the tensions between separatism and coalition-building (both of which, she held, are politically necessary); the dangers of "mono-issue" critical perspectives and agendas for activism; and the destructiveness to feminist communities of forgetting "the principles that are the basis of [our] practice." Today, more than a decade later, these issues are still important and far from being resolved. This volume works toward achieving that goal.
Contributors: Nellie Y. McKay, Anuradha Dingwaney, Needham, Robyn Wiegman, Carla Kaplan, Teresa L. Ebert, LaurieLangbauer, Daphne Patai, Susan Ritchie Amy Shuman, Sally Mecklig, Mary Deveraux, and Diane P. Freedman.
About the editor:
Glynis Carr is an associate professor of English and Program Coordinator of Women's Studies at Bucknell University. She has published articles on women writers and is editor of "Turning the Century":Feminist Theory in the 1990s (1992) and The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings (1997-present). Her current scholarship concerns ecocritical approaches to women writers.
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