Comments on: American Literary Fiction: No Girls Allowed! http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:24:08 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-812387 Fri, 08 Apr 2011 14:54:05 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-812387 Good for you! Each to her own.

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By: anonymous reader http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-812382 Fri, 08 Apr 2011 14:27:12 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-812382 You guys are so freaking pretentious I can hardly believe it. Salinger wrote beautifully. His works have moved me to laughter and tears–they did when I was fifteen and they still do today. Try picking up Catcher again, or another one of his stories or books, and really engage with it, before slamming him for this or that vaguely-remembered detail or line from Catcher, or accusing him of lacking literary merit because the book has fallen off a high school curriculum.

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By: Cattyinqueens http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-546560 Tue, 02 Feb 2010 14:52:02 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-546560 I liked Catcher in the Rye, like Dr. Crazy…I thought it was refreshing after some other tiresome things we’d been reading (when I was in high school, I was all “PURITANS: DO NOT WANT!!). I grew up in suburbs outside of a big city Ohio, so I found the world of that novel strange and interesting. Not fascinating, but interesting. So I think what I liked had something to do with the voice–yeah, I’ll admit that I liked all the slang…by the 80s, it seemed really quaint anyway–and the fact that it presented something utterly different in terms of its setting. I think I only had known YA girl’s book settings, England, and New England as places where books were set, and I really didn’t know anything about other places.

I’m also with Dr. Crazy (and we are in the same field, in a manner of speaking) on the fact that literary scholarship doesn’t often focus on the books people read in high school. At least I don’t see a lot of people doing that kind of work. I guess Updike might be an exception, though I’m not an Americanist and am too lazy to look at the MLA bibliography to see if people who have phds actually give a $#!7 about him. I like Matt L.’s idea about a dissertation in American Studies that looks at high school board book choices!

So many books in High school just suck…when acutally, they are quite good when you are grown up. Great Expectations is one of my favorite novels now, but I hated it–and Estella–so much as a high school student.

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By: Dr. Crazy http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-545284 Mon, 01 Feb 2010 04:55:28 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-545284 On a totally non-topic point, Jane Eyre. I read it when I was around 12 or 13, and I loved it. No, I didn’t get more than the plot of “young girl is totally screwed over by life and then ends up having an awesome life, in spite of that pesky crazy first wife up on the third floor.” But it worked for me, because Jane (especially as a rebellious young girl) worked for me. I read it because I basically spent a summer staying at my grandmother’s during my parent’s most volatile divorce time-period, and I got how pissed off Jane was because I was pissed off.

I now teach Jane Eyre regularly in one of my two gen. ed. courses, which means that many of the students to whom I teach it are 18-19 and/or have never had another college-level lit course. The vast majority of them love it. It’s a “good story” and they *like* Jane. This is whether we’re talking about male students or female. I’m not sure whether all of them get “the cleverness of the book and the deviousness of the first-person narration” but as a novel, they dig it. And most of them are shocked that they do, as they expect that it will be a chore for them at the outset because a) it’s from the 19th century and b) it’s kinda long. I’ll also say that I’ve done a book discussion for senior citizens (men and women) in the community about it, and they loved that. Seriously, I think Jane Eyre is an all-ages, all genders, all ethnicities book and that it’s all about pitching it in the right way given the audience. And it rules. In spite of what Virginia Woolf had to say about it :)

(But your larger point holds: some books you need to be at the right age or the right place in your life to read and to “get.” I’m not disputing that larger point, just saying that having been introduced to JE as a pre-teen, having introduced it to late-teens, and having led a discussion of it for oldsters, I’m not sure that this is a designation that applies to this book.)

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-544082 Sun, 31 Jan 2010 01:58:03 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-544082 That’s a shrewd and ironical point about subverting the subversive, Historiann. Herbert Marcuse once described that kind of cultural dynamic as “repressive tolerance,” and the Sixties saw a whole lot of what came to be called “co-optation,” by way of institutions de-fanging the critique of the conformist society by mass-producing it. The Beards’ _Basic History of the United States_ continued to be adopted by business-oriented school boards well up toward the 1950s. That might have had something to do with their own ideological migration, but I don’t know about that.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-543943 Sat, 30 Jan 2010 19:35:24 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-543943 mandor: interesting point about the non-canonization of some works of literature. Maybe Atwood, Plath, and Bronte retain their allure among some young readers precisely because they’re NOT on many syllabi? I’m glad that I never read Jane Eyre until I was a college Senior, and could appreciate the cleverness of the book and the deviousness of the first-person narration. I think the book would have been wasted on me in high school, when I pronounced a lot of great works of literture “dumb.”

In many ways, I wonder if the canonization of Catcher was the apotheosis of what a character like Holden Caufield would have wanted. What better way to subvert a subversive novel than to REQUIRE generations of captives of the state to read it? Ha! The “phonies” win again.

Indyanna: well, the BOTM books had served their purpose, right? They entertained your mother before she was your mother, and they were important enough to her for her to keep all those years. I’ll head over to the NYT and see if I can find that Lodge column you mention.

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By: mandor http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-543872 Sat, 30 Jan 2010 18:35:57 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-543872 I managed to center my upper level high school english classes around short stories (once I got past the required 9th/10th grade stuff) and it’s only later that I’ve realized how much more diverse my readings were. I’m sure were I to unearth the course syllabi there would still be a lot of white dudes, but it wasn’t only white dudes! Or in the case of the David Leavitt story, it was a gay white dude.

The Rebel Lettriste: I wish I had your teacher! Instead I recall my 10th grade english teacher (a woman) talking about how it probably wasn’t fair to the boys to make them read Jane Eyre. Never mind the rest of what we read that year. And no wonder my friends and I all latched onto Margaret Atwood and Sylvia Plath in our spare reading time.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-543851 Sat, 30 Jan 2010 17:52:56 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-543851 Umm, I think the “mansplanation” that Historiann invoked yesterday has arrived, over on the Op-Ed page of the NYT this morning, by David Lodge, entitled “The Pre-Postmodernist.” Lots of pithy and prolix quotation, some clever work with parentheses (((( )))), and I guess some hard-hitting analysis, although I’m not in any way a literary critic or scholar…. Check it out.

There’s a story behind the BOMC book trove I mentioned. As an executor, I dutifully took every book in the house to the auctioneer, although it was my father’s estate, and he wasn’t exactly–or at all–a book guy. They threw them in boxes and before the auction people pawed through them. When the bidding opened people had to bid on whole boxes in order to get the books they actually wanted. The auctioneer said this raises the total proceeds. When they won the bid they took the books they wanted and left the rest in the boxes. The BOMC ones were left on the cutting room floor. I asked the guy if I could take them back home and he said, yeah, sure, “the value’s out of them,” if you don’t take them they go in the dumpster. “Value” is a relative thing, it seems. [See Janice Radway's book on the BOMC and "Middle Class Desire."] My mother would have gone nuts not over this, but that the 1950s Lionel train sets they bought at Sears ignited a bidding war that stopped action all over the house, while the cut glass stuff her grand aunts had bought went for pennies on the vase!

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By: Paul S. http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-543820 Sat, 30 Jan 2010 17:24:19 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-543820 Did I miss …………

Well fuck me! I guess I gotta pay better attention.

Glad I could set you straight!

Seriously, though, the post over at Dr. Crazy’s that Historiann linked to above says it much better than I could have.

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By: The Rebel Lettriste http://www.historiann.com/2010/01/29/american-literary-fiction-no-girls-allowed/comment-page-1/#comment-543797 Sat, 30 Jan 2010 17:06:20 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=9397#comment-543797 This whole thread made me tear up thinking about my AP English teacher, an inveterate feminist. (To wit, she told us that for the standardized reading and analysis exam we had to take was up for debate. “Everybody’s saying that we can’t use a text with a female protagonist, because it’ll be difficult for the boys to relate,” she said. “No mention of what the girls think, for EVERY BOOK WE READ…” I felt a surge of gladness, even as a 17 year old.)

Anyway, she didn’t assign Salinger, thank god. Instead, we got Morrison, Austen, Bulgakov, Tolstoi, Conrad, Hurston, Shax, Kafka, Chopin, Perkins Gilman, Woolf. Good shit, now that I think back on it.

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