Comments on: Freedom is mine! Or, “Melodramas of Beset Manhood,” redux. http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Thu, 25 Sep 2014 17:18:38 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Tuesday roundup: drunken a$$hats edition : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-707134 Tue, 07 Sep 2010 16:03:52 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-707134 [...] the pool and otherwise, I got a good jump on Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom this weekend.  I’ll offer a complete review here once I’ve finished it, but [...]

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By: Ide Cyan http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-705650 Sun, 05 Sep 2010 07:05:10 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-705650 That Joanna Russ essay Sisyphus references is titled “What Can a Heroine Do? or Why Women Can’t Write”.

Some more info here:
http://wiki.feministsf.net/index.php?title=What_Can_a_Heroine_Do%3F_or_Why_Women_Can't_Write

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704458 Fri, 03 Sep 2010 14:59:09 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704458 Anyone who loves their Charles Brockden Brown is welcome to him! I don’t think the more recent cultural studies literature makes his novels any more appealing or interesting, but YMMV.

Geoff’s point is interesting about how journalists might be drawn to the big social novels as opposed to the self-contained worlds of other writers.

And Mamie–yes, the “Patty” in the short story and the “Patty” in the novel are in the same character! (Good pickup). In fact, the first part of the novel is simply the two short stories Franzen published in the New Yorker recently (in the past year or so.) I’m still slogging through them to get to the new material. “Patty” is portrayed as an over-involved SAHM of the 1980s-early 2000s whose son rebels against her and disappoints her. I’m not sure where Franzen is going with the character, but the rape story is part of her own autobiography in the novel.

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By: Geoff http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704183 Fri, 03 Sep 2010 04:47:24 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704183 The points made in Historiann’s excerpt of Baym’s essay precisely echo the sentiments quoted in the NPR piece by Tanenhaus and Smiley. Tanenhaus praised Franzen’s work for providing us with ‘a panorama of our culture’ which also illuminated its deepest anxieties, tensions and questions. Smiley sympathized with the sentiments of Picoult, arguing that literature such as hers was overlooked because the ‘payoff was emotional rather than intellectual.’

Alongside the gendered production and reception of the works under discussion, I think there are at least two other factors at work which explain some of the adulation that has greeted work such as Franzen’s. The first is that lit is one of the few places in American media where one can get away with scathing criticism of our culture. The phenomenon which is greeting Franzen’s latest probably came into current form with the popular reception of Sinclair Lewis’ works. Main Street and Babbitt are, among other things, relentless take-downs of small-town and urban middle-class life, yet they were devoured and critically lauded. There’s an axis that runs from Lewis, through Updike and on to Franzen in which readers have been reading about themselves in witty but unflattering ways. (With a lot more verve and nuance than Cheever, BTW).

The second factor I think is at work is that these author’s projects — novels with aspects of social history — are closer to the journalist’s enterprise than those of Picoult or Weiner. I don’t find it very suprising that periodicals that traffic primarily in current affairs and contemporary high- and middle-brow culture highlight fiction that covers the same territory. Journalists are going to praise work that seems journalistic.

‘Dick-lit’? In the sense that these authors write primarily about male characters and sex drive from a white, privileged position, sure…but one must acknowledge the HUGE strain of male self-loathing that permeates Roth and Updike, and I’d argue most postwar male-authored American fiction. Their sexual natures are the source of far more anxiety than enjoyment…if there’s an essence to today’s ‘dick-lit’, I think that’s it.

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By: Mamie http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704179 Fri, 03 Sep 2010 04:44:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704179 In reading reviews of Freedom, I noticed that the “monstrous” housewife, identified as a former high-school hoops star, has the same first name as the hoops-playing 1970s rape victim in Franzen’s story “Agreeable,” mentioned around here in an earlier post.

Please report: does the “agreeable” victim really grow up to be a monstrous shrew?

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By: Clithero http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704117 Fri, 03 Sep 2010 02:43:00 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704117 Brown’s work is difficult to understand only because he wrote within a radical idiom that has been successfully suppressed by ensuing waves of cultural conservatism. Strange to criticize the author of what was at that time the longest work of feminist social commentary (Alcuin) published by any American resident. Post-Baym criticism and editions of Brown, often informed by recovery work of feminist scholar Janet Todd, have made Brown, and his gender progressivism, newly legible.

(And by the way, it was nineteenth-century critics, not twentieth-century ones, who made the claim for Brown as “father of the American novel”, but these literary histories also usually spent more time detailing the writing of a wider spectrum of women than are taught even in the most canon-revised seminars today).

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By: Sisyphus http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704091 Fri, 03 Sep 2010 01:43:55 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704091 Have you read Joanna Russ’s essay/short story about why women can’t write American literature? I know I pulled a copy of it from some anthology for my students a while back — I could send it to you if I ever find it.

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By: undine http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-704023 Thu, 02 Sep 2010 23:49:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-704023 I second Roxie’s comment–terrific essay. You know the “Aha!” moment when everything clicks into place and you realize what was wrong before? “MoBM” made everything click into place.

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By: Roxie http://www.historiann.com/2010/09/02/freedom-is-mine-or-melodramas-of-beset-manhood-redux/comment-page-1/#comment-703992 Thu, 02 Sep 2010 21:57:03 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=12383#comment-703992 Terrific essay. My typist had it in mind when we were working on that piece a couple weeks back on all those stories we saw this summer about getting away from technology and civilization, which has always been a flight from women and domesticity, of course. (That post is here: http://roxies-world.blogspot.com/2010/08/come-back-to-raft-agin-huck-honey.html) Moose started grad school in the fall of the year “Melodramas of Beset Manhood” was published, and it influenced her decision to become an Americanist. Crazy that it still seems so radical and necessary, but the Boys’ Club of Am Lit and Culture is alive and well, as you know, Historiann.

Sorry we missed the earlier discussion — Re-entry week is distracting my typist from her blog reading, I’m afraid!

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