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Looks at the dynamics of identification, envy, and idealization in fictional narratives by Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, and others, as well as in nonfictional accounts of cross-race relations by white feminists and feminists of color.
Risking Difference revisions the dynamics of multicultural feminist community by exploring the ways that identification creates misrecognitions and misunderstandings between individuals and within communities. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jean Wyatt argues not only that individual psychic processes of identification influence social dynamics, but also that social discourses of race, class, and culture shape individual identifications. In addition to examining fictional narratives by Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, and others, Wyatt also looks at nonfictional accounts of cross-race relations by white feminists and feminists of color.
“…[Wyatt’s] book provides one of the most useful and accessible summaries of Lacanian theory I have read … [a] very impressive piece of interdisciplinary work, which has implications for psychology, literature, philosophy, cultural studies, and even community building. This is a major achievement, not to be missed.” — Cheryl L. Walker, NOVEL
“The book is valuable in that it identifies and attempts to address in this way one major problem facing contemporary feminist studies: the enduring perceived divide between feminist and racial issues.” — In-Between: Essays & Studies in Literary Criticism
“It is a powerful and moving book that will exhilarate anyone interested in contemporary literature and politics.” — Modern Fiction Studies
“…useful for students of Lacanian feminism who seek practical applications for the theory.” — American Literature
"Risking Difference is a trenchant, lucid, and daring inquiry into the power and dangers of identification in recent feminist discourse and practice. Spanning psychoanalytic, literary, and critical texts, Wyatt thoughtfully unravels the desires that fuel idealizing identifications, especially those that cross racial boundaries, and examines the damage these fantasies inflict on the possibility of an enduring and diverse feminist community. She is willing to look hard at uncomfortable issues such as feminist envy and appropriation, and to offer strategies for moving these covert issues into the symbolic register of public discourse. Conversant with a range of psychoanalytic debates from Freud and Lacan to Klein, Zizek, Silverman, Fuss, and others, Wyatt preserves her own clear perspective and voice and puts them to work in provocative readings of twentieth-century fiction. This is an important book for anyone committed to keeping the conceptual and social boundaries of the female subject open." Elizabeth Abel, coeditor of Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism
"Simultaneously bold and delicate, Jean Wyatt's Risking Difference fuses psychoanalytic theory, feminism, narrative theory, anti-racist discourse, and concerns within multicultural politics to propose an original praxis for feminist intersubjectivity. Not for Wyatt the sterile academic debates centered on theoretical (or political) correctness; what is at stake is an urgent intellectual pursuit to figure out the politics of power as it informs the largely unconscious mechanisms of identification that women make across races, classes, and historical situations. Feminists who care about ethical and political questions pertaining to alterity will find her punchy last chapter on cross-race dialogue indispensable. This is a vigorous, careful, lucid, and thoroughly readable contribution to feminist ethics and politics." Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, author of Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race
"This is a compelling book, at once a sophisticated work of psychoanalytic theory, a manifesto for feminist politics, and a detailed study of a major aspect of contemporary literature. The notion that partial identificationor identification in the Realbypasses many of the political problems that have besieged contemporary feminism is incredibly important in the contemporary political and theoretical landscape. The book offers nothing short of a complete rethinking of how we might constitute ourselves as political entities." Hilary Neroni, University of Vermont
"Wyatt illuminates the complexities and challenges of identificatory processes as they operate both in women's literary texts and in progressive political communities. She demonstrates not only how pervasive these processes are, but also how vital the understanding of them is to the formation of harmonious multicultural communities." Barbara Ann Schapiro, author of D. H. Lawrence and the Paradoxes of Psychic Life
Jean Wyatt is Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Occidental College and the author of Reconstructing Desire: The Role of the Unconscious in Women's Reading and Writing.
Table of Contents
Introduction: I Want to Be You
Part I. Totalizing Identifications
1. The Politics of Envy in Academic Feminist Communities and in Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride
2. I Want You To Be Me: Parent-Child Identification in D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow and Carolyn Kay Steedman's Landscape for a Good Woman
3. Identification with the Trauma of Others: Slavery, Collective Trauma, and the Difficulties of Representation in Toni Morrison's Beloved
Part II. Structures of Identification in the Visual Field
4. Race and Idealization in Toni Morrison's Tar Baby and in White Feminist Cross-Race Fantasies
5. Luring the Gaze: Desire and Interpellation in Sandra Cisneros's "Woman Hollering Creek," Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe, Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop, and Margaret Drabble's Jerusalem the Golden
6. Disidentification and Border Negotiations of Gender in Sandra Cisneros's Woman Hollering Creek
Part III. Heteropathic Identifications
7. Toward Cross-Race Dialogue: Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, and the Psychoanalytic Politics of Community
Appendix: The Challenge of Infant Research and Neurobiology to Traditional Models of Primary Identification