Engendering Romance


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Women Writers and the Hawthorne Tradition, 1850-1990

Emily Miller Budick

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This engrossing book describes how four twentieth-century women writers—Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Toni Morrison, and Grace Paley—have inherited and adapted the classical tradition of American romance fiction.

Emily Miller Budick argues that this tradition, exemplified by the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Henry James, William Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison, is inherently skepticist, questioning whether and how we know reality. It is also sharply critical of the patriarchal bias of American culture, which is understood by these writers as a way of evading or settling philosophical doubt. Analyzing such works as The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, The Portrait of a Lady, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Invisible Man, Budick explores this antipatriarchal critique and shows how it enables the twentieth-century women romancers to inherit the tradition. In their writings, however—in McCullers's Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Beloved, and Paley's short stories—these writers do more than further the concerns of the male authors. They also explore the idea of maternal knowledge and think through alternatives not only to the patriarchal organization of society but to matriarchal constructions as well. Budick offers provocative insights into what it means to inherit a tradition--in particular across lines of gender, but also across lines of race--as she discusses the ways these four women writers revise the genre of romance to accommodate the exigencies of modern American society.

Emily Miller Budick is professor of American literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Budick's systematic retelling of a major, male tradition of American storytelling in effect provides a romance about the romance of conversion which traces that tradition's own conversion, hence continuation, in the hands of women storytellers. This is cause enough for gratitude to her, but I find further cause. Budick sees the difference of the romance tradition not as its repression of politics but as its expression of philosophy (confronting the issue of skepticism); she thus uncovers a major form of the contribution of women to the tradition of (American) philosophy."—Stanley Cavell, Harvard University

"Budick's committed, interesting book deserves a wide readership and careful consideration."—Scott Derrick, American Literature

"Budick brings together the richness of earlier feminist criticism . . . and a profound grasp of the American literary tradition to develop a closely argued and convincing thesis concerning the historically persistent antipatriarchal bias of the American romance. . . . Well written and wonderfully humane, this book belongs in every collection of American literature."—Choice

ISBN: 9780300055573
Publication Date: April 27, 1994
300 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4