Changing the Story

Changing the Story

Feminist Fiction and the Tradition
Gayle Greene
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/1/1992
ISBN: 978-0-253-11654-3
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A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 1992
" . . . Changing the Story . . . gives an excellent and well-informed account of the differences between the American, Canadian, British, and French attitudes towards feminism and feminist fiction and literary theory. . . . a very readable book . . . which reminds us that literature can change us, and that through it we can change ourselves." —Margaret Drabble

"A distinctive contribution—clear, elegant, precise, and well-read—to the feminist discussion of narrative, of Anglo/Canadian/white North American novelists, and to contemporary fiction. Greene tracks how feminist novelists draw upon, and negotiate with traditional narrative patterns, and how their critical approach implicates, and provokes, social change. The book brings us to an intelligent post-humanism which does not scant the social meanings of metafictional critique. And, in addition, this book remembers hope." —Rachel Blau DuPlessis

"Changing the Story is an invaluable guide to the feminist classics of the last three decades. This is cultural criticism at its best: engaged, re-visionary, and politically astute." —Nancy K. Miller

“Greene tells a very good tale about how feminist fiction emerged, developed, made changes in the world, and now threatens to wane.” —The Women's Review of Books

“Her probing analysis . . . should captivate general readers as well as academics.” —WLW Journal

“Changing the Story is an important work of feminist criticism certain to spark controversy within the feminist community.” —American Literature

The feminist fiction movement of the 1960s–1980s was and is as significant a movement as Modernism. Gayle Greene focuses on the works of Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Margaret Atwood, and Margaret Laurence to trace the roots of this feminist literary explosion. She also speculates on the future of feminist fiction in the current regressive period of "post feminism."

Reviews

"Greene (Scripps College), coeditor of two anthologies, The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (CH, Mar'81), and Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism (CH, Apr'86), turns her attention in this book to the 1970s fiction of Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Margaret Laurence, and Margaret Atwood. Her focus is on what she terms feminist metafiction: books about protagonists who turn to reading for validation of self and escape from circumstances. Greene sets her analysis within the framework of debate between Anglo and French feminist critics and, by her own admission, uses eclectic approaches: Marxist and deconstructive for The Golden Notebook, French feminist for The Waterfall, intertextual for The Diviners, and psychoanalytic for Lady Oracle. Greene's study is exhaustively researched (more than 70 pages are devoted to notes and bibliography), densely and tightly written, and yet eminently readable. Her introduction is a tour de force, which is followed by three chapters tracing themes, especially that of the mad housewife, in women's literature prior to feminist metafictions; then four chapters are devoted to that main topic. The concluding chapter, Whatever Happened to Feminist Fiction?, a kind of literary counterpart to Susan Faludi's Backlash (1991), presents a bleak assessment of recent work by Atwood, Lessing, and Drabble. Greene asserts that such novels as The Handmaid's Tale and The Radiant Way express unqualified disillusionment in that the protagonists are no longer able to revise their worlds by the acts of writing and reading. Strongly recommended for all academic libraries." —E. R. Baer, Washington College, Choice , July 1992

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

I. Introduction
Feminist Metafiction as Re-Vision

Part I: Feminist Fiction
The Beginnings

II. Women Writing in the Twentieth Century
The Novel and Social Change

III. Mad Housewives and Closed Circles
Mad Housewife Fiction of the Sixties and Seventies

IV. “Old Stories”
Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and Gail Godwin’s The Odd Woman

Part II: “Something New”

V. Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook
Naming in a Different Way

VI. Margaret Drabble’s The Waterfall
New System, New Morality

VII. Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners
Changing the Past

VIII. Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle
Going off Gothics

IX. Whatever Happened to Feminist Fiction?

Notes
Bibliography
Index