By Susan Gubar
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Extra info for Critical Condition, Feminism at the Turn of the Century (Gender and Culture)
Here I borrow a project proposed but never composed by Virginia Woolf because, like her, I want to glimpse the future, to press “as closely as can be upon the massy wall of time, which is forever lifting and pulling and letting fresh spaces of life in upon us” (“JMJM” ). What the forecast holds for feminist critics: this was a subject I only dared approach through the chorus of voices I assembled through a questionnaire sent to my peers. Besides my wish to disrupt learned configurations of knowledge by splicing academic with artistic practices and by participating in many other people ’s efforts to bring racial, sexual, religious, and institutional speculations (as well as their activist agendas) into the purview of feminist criticism, part of my impetus throughout this undertaking springs from dissatisfaction with the currently available histories of feminist criticism.
Added volatility comes from the abrupt switches between sketches: sharp dislocations between soliloquies disrupt notions of continuity, emphasizing the differences of the opinions being aired. With no hope of closure, the spectator shifts through a series of emotionally moving identifications with characters who often cannot relate to each other, no less inhabit Women Artists and Contemporary Racechanges the same settings. 26 While inside the variously located soliloquies (a synagogue, a community outreach center), each character identifies as a particular ethnic type, members of the audience may find themselves empathizing with a cacophony of conflicting perspectives.
That the best-selling Native-American classic Education of Little Tree was actually composed by the KKK author of Governor George Wallace’s famous “Segregation now . . Segregation tomorrow . . ” More pointedly libertarian in purpose, however, are recent texts such as Toni Morrison’s Paradise as well as her earlier story “Recitatif ” in which ambiguous racial markers make readers conscious of the (curiously gratuitous, idiosyncratic) basis upon which they apply racial labels. How we interpreters determine that an indeterminate character is “really” white or black speaks volumes about the assumptions brought to such societally formative language.