vol 09 - 1983

Feminist theory, for the most part, assumes that our experience of history, even the history of our own lives, is constructed, is a story we tell ourselves, is ideological, and it assumes that ideologies are political, that they sustain or challenge relations of power. But if one function of feminist theory has been to critique stories which have been told about us and which have shaped our lives, the articles in this issue suggest that our reading of these stories is becoming more complex. In moving away from a simpler construction of ourselves as victims of male ideological domination we have come to see ourselves and our sisters in the past as writers of our own scripts whether those scripts have read as stories of restriction or as tales of liberation. In this issue, for example, Frances Jaffer's poem "Slope" suggests the inadequacy of old scripts, and Bell Chevigny asserts that in biographically recreating the lives of our foremothers we may be seeking indirectly to rescript and repair our own lives. Carol Ascher, meanwhile, in "Or a Short Story," reminds us that writing such tales of liberation is not an automatic consequence of becoming a feminist.

Tales of liberation, in fact, must themselves be scrutinized, must be read as particular historical events, or their political effects may be miscontrued. According to Kirsten Drotner, the shift from schoolgirl to air ace heroine in British magazines for girls, far from reflecting some liberating progress on the part of lower middle-class females, actually offered girls a way of escaping the reality of narrowed options and closing horizons. By the same token, stories which we have learned to read as simple vehicles for ideological domination may appear to operate more complexly when they are placed in the context of their readers' experience. Thus Janice Radway's study of the women who read Harlequin romances suggests that "romance reading may have some positive benefits and that even its conservative effects actually originate in significant discontent with the institutions the books purport to celebrate."



Linda Gordon and Ellen DuBois
Seeking Ecstasy on the Battlefield:
Danger and Pleasure in Nineteenth-Century
Feminist Sexual Thought;
Musing About the Muse: An Art Essay

Kirsten Drotner
Schoolgirls, Madcaps, and Air Aces:
English Girls and Their Magazine
Reading between the Wars

Janice A. Radway
Women Read the Romance:
The Interaction of Text and Context

Bell Gale Chevigny
Daughters Writing:
Toward a Theory of Women's Biography

Carol Ascher
Or a Short Story

Steven M. Stowe
"The Thing, Not Its Vision":
A Woman's Courtship and Her Sphere
in the Southern Planter Class

Bonnie Thornton Dill
Race, Class, and Gender:
Prospects for an All-inclusive Sisterhood

Phyllis Marynick Palmer
White Women/Black Women:
The Dualism of Female Identity
and Experience in the United States

Frances Jaffer

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