Feminism at the Turn of the Century
Is feminism dead, as has been claimed by notable members of the media and the academy? Has feminist knowledge, with its proliferation of methodologies and fields, been purchased at the price of power? Are the conflicts among feminists evidence of self-destructive infighting or do they herald the emergence of innovative modes of inquiry? Given a feminism now ensconced within higher education as specialized or fractious scholarship, Susan Gubar's Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn of the Century demonstrates that an invigorated concentration on activism and artistry can accentuate not the clinical or disparaging meaning of "critical" but its sense of compelling urgency and irreverent vitality.
As a pioneer of feminist studies—and the object of some of the more rancorous criticism lodged against early feminist scholars—Gubar stands in a unique position to comment on current dilemmas. Moving beyond defensiveness produced by generational rivalry, the impasse propagated by smug deployments of identity politics, and the obscurity of poststructuralist theory, she claims that the very controversies that undermine feminism's unity also prove its resilience.
Gubar begins by considering the volatile impact of gender on recent redefinitions of race, sexuality, religion, and class proposed by four important groups in contemporary feminism: African-American performance and visual artists, lesbian creative writers, Jewish-American women, and newly institutionalized female academics. She then addresses major divisions—including the rifts between various area studies and women's studies, as well as strains between generations—that both threaten and invigorate feminist inquiry. Gubar's forays into art and activism, politics, and the profession provide a sometimes distressing, sometimes comical, sometimes optimistic view of feminism emerging from a time of contention into a lively period of pluralized perspectives and disciplines.
"Susan Gubar, one of the twentieth century's pioneers in feminist literary studies, provides us with a magnificent description of the dilemmas facing feminist theory as it enters the new millennium. Jewish and African-American feminists, in particular, will be fascinated by her analyses of the configuration of gender, race, and ethnicity in the multicultural agenda." — Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
"Envisioning, as a new century approaches, a renewal of feminist energies—those of internal dissent and contention as well as those of coalition and solidarity—Susan Gubar's lucid, unflinching argument for a feminist future is sure to play an important role in securing that future for us all." — Lee Edelman, professor of English, Tufts University
"In this lively, eminently readable overview, Susan Gubar takes the pulse of feminism and women's studies, as well as gay and lesbian studies, at a time of increasing division within the ranks. A provocative summing up for the next millennium." — Gerald Graff, associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
I. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
2. Women Artists and Contemporary Racechanges
3. Lesbian Studies 101 (As Taught by Creative Writers)
4. Eating the Bread of Affliction: Judaism and Feminism
5. The Graying of Professor Erma Bombeck
II. Contending Forces
6. What Ails Feminist Criticism?
7. Feminist Misogyny: or, The Paradox of "It Takes One to Know One''
8. A Chapter on the Future