The Intimate Critique

Autobiographical Literary Criticism

The Intimate Critique

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: Published: January 1993

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

For a long time now, readers and scholars have strained against the limits of traditional literary criticism, whose precepts—above all, "objectivity"—seem to have so little to do with the highly personal and deeply felt experience of literature. The Intimate Critique marks a movement away from this tradition. With their rich spectrum of personal and passionate voices, these essays challenge and ultimately breach the boundaries between criticism and narrative, experience and expression, literature and life.
Grounded in feminism and connected to the race, class, and gender paradigms in cultural studies, the twenty-six contributors to this volume—including Jane Tompkins, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Shirley Nelson Garner, and Shirley Goek-Lin Lim—respond in new, refreshing ways to literary subjects ranging from Homer to Freud, Middlemarch to The Woman Warrior, Shiva Naipaul to Frederick Douglass. Revealing the beliefs and formative life experiences that inform their essays, these writers characteristically recount the process by which their opinions took shape--a process as conducive to self-discovery as it is to critical insight. The result—which has been referred to as "personal writing," "experimental critical writing," or "intellectual autobiography"—maps a dramatic change in the direction of literary criticism.

Contributors. Julia Balen, Dana Beckelman, Ellen Brown, Sandra M. Brown, Rosanne Kanhai-Brunton, Suzanne Bunkers, Peter Carlton, Brenda Daly, Victoria Ekanger, Diane P. Freedman, Olivia Frey, Shirley Nelson Garner, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Melody Graulich, Gail Griffin, Dolan Hubbard, Kendall, Susan Koppelman, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Linda Robertson, Carol Taylor, Jane Tompkins, Cheryl Torsney, Trace Yamamoto, Frances Murphy Zauhar


The Intimate Critique shows us readers enthralled and changed by what they read. It contains some wonderful writing. The essays demonstrate the deep excavations and brutal honesty that autobiographic writing—not an exploration everyone wants to undertake—requires. They also make one wonder how many voices have been silenced by the censorship of more ‘objective’ modes.” — Gloria Bowles, Women's Review of Books

"The Intimate Critique marks the coming out of a new critical genre, sure to generate controversy, pleasure, rage, support, disbelief, acclaim (i.e., strong reactions!) among its readers." — Alice Kaplan, author of French Lessons: A Memoir

"Grouped together, these very different essays raise and respond to a question that feminist theorists continue to ask—about the extent to which individual experience and self-expression may be read as representative." — Rachel M. Brownstein, author of Becoming a Heroine: Reading About Women in Novels

"This book goes a long way toward breathing life into literary criticism, advancing the necessary effort to write about it in a personal, engaged, and interesting manner." — G. Douglas Atkins, University of Kansas


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diane P. Freedman, Assistant Professor of English at University of New Hampshire, is the author of An Alchemy of Genres: Cross-Genre Writing by American Women Poet Critics.

Olivia Frey is Associate Professor of English and Director of Women's Studies at St. Olaf College.

Frances Murphy Zauhar is Assistant Professor of English at St. Vincent College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction / Diane P. Freedman, Olivia Frey, and Francis Murphy Zauhar 1

Part 1. Muse-ings on Genre, Autobiography, Narrative: Formative Strategies

Border Crossing as Method and Motif in Contemporary American Writing, or, How Freud Helped Me Case the Joint / Diane P. Freedman 13

Me and My Shadow / Jane Tompkins 23

Beyond Literary Darwinism: Women's Voices and Critical Discourse / Olivia Frey 41

"Everyday Life": My Sojourn at Parchman Farm / Cheryl B. Torsney 67

Excerpts from Letters to Friends / Susan Koppelman 75

Social Circles: Being a Report on J. Hills Miller's Campus Visitation / Linda R. Robertson 81

Touchstones and Bedrocks: Learning the Stories We Need / Victoria Ekanger 93

Part II. Critical Confessions

Creative Voices: Women Reading and Women's Writing / Frances Murphy Zauhar 103

Breaking Silence: The Woman Warrior / Shirley Nelson Garner 117

Different Silences / Traise Yamamoto 127

"What's in a Name?": Some Meanings of Blackness / Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 135

Poetry and the Age: "A Girl in a Library" to Randall Jarrell / Sandra M. Brown 151

My Friend, Joyce Carol Oates / Brenda Daly 163

Somebody Must Say These Things: An Essay for My Mother / Melody Graulich 175

The Scarlet Brewer and the Voice of the Colonized / Shirley Geok-lin Lim 191

Dividing Fences / Carol S. Taylor 197

What Do Women Really Mean? Thoughts on Women's Diaries and Lives / Suzanne Bunkers 207

Part III. Autobiographical Literary Criticism

Between the Medusa and the Abyss: Reading Jane Eyre, Reading Myself / Ellen Brown 225

Rereading Middlemarch, Rereading Myself / Peter Carlton 237

The Crippling of the Third World: Shiva Naipaul's Heritage / Rosanne Kanhai-Brunton 225

Penelope's Web / Gail Griffin 255

"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around!": Reading the Narrative of Frederick Douglass / Dolan Hubbard 265

Catharine Trotter Cockburn and Me: A Duography / Kendall 273

In Between Abject and Object: The Mourning Sickness of the Expectant Mother, or, Three Movements of the Blues in B Minor / Dana Beckelman 283

La Ronde of Children and Mothers / Julia Balen 293

Selected Bibliography 303

Contributors 309

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Winner, 1993 Susan Koppelman Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1292-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1285-7
Publicity material