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From Girl to Woman
American Women's Coming-of-Age Narratives
From Girl to Woman
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Christy Rishoi - Author
SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Hardcover - 214 pages
Release Date: March 2003
ISBN10: 0-7914-5721-4
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-5721-4

Out of Print
Price: $32.95 
Paperback - 214 pages
Release Date: March 2003
ISBN10: 0-7914-5722-2
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-5722-1

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Examines the crucial role that coming-of-age narratives have played in American feminism.

From Girl to Woman examines the coming-of-age narratives of a diverse group of American women writers, including Annie Dillard, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Mary McCarthy, and explores the crucial role of such narratives in the development of American feminism. Women have long known that identity is complex and contradictory, but in the twentieth century their coming-of-age narratives finally voice this knowledge. Addressing a variety of themes—awakening sexuality, the body's metamorphosis in puberty, consciousness of difference from males, and the socialization into feminine gender roles—these narratives reject the heroine's narrative ending in romance, allowing American women writers to create alternative subjectivities by rejecting the notion that identity is ever fixed. While activists have succeeded in winning legal battles that have changed the legal status of women, these narratives perform the cultural work of exposing the painful contradictions faced by women as they come of age.

"An intelligent, closely reasoned, and well-balanced study. I enjoyed reading this book from start to finish. The texts are well chosen, the discussion is sophisticated and stimulating, and the argument moves forward at a steady pace. Rishoi covers some complicated and interesting terrain in this highly perceptive and extremely reliable guide." — Jane Tompkins, author of Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860

"Rishoi's keen attention to a wide range of theoretical material situates the texts in a broad spectrum of critiques that are truly interdisciplinary. There are wonderful redactions of what I would call 'old favorites'—from feminist to psychoanalytic and traditional Marxist texts. This book is lucid and engaging." — Sharon P. Holland, author of Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity

Christy Rishoi is Professor of English at Mott College.

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Table of Contents


1. Identity and the Coming-of-Age Narrative

Recreating Womanhood

2. Feminism, Autobiography, and Theories of Subjectivity

Feminism and the Autobiographical Act
Western Theories of Subjectivity
Feminist Poststructuralist Revisions of Subjectivity

3. Coming of Age in America

Historical Accounts of Adolescence
Psychological Accounts of Adolescence
Literary Accounts of Coming of Age
The Coming-of-Age Narrative
American Grand Narratives of Coming of Age

4. Specifying American Girlhood: Annie Dillard and Anne Moody

Specifying the Universal in An American Childhood
Hegemonic Inscription of the Body in Coming of Age in Mississippi

5. "Lying Contests": Fictional Autobiography and Autobiographical Fiction

"Lying Contests": Signifying Coming of Age
Janie's Ways of Knowing

6. "Room for Paradoxes": Creating a Hybrid Identity

A "World of Paper Strengths": The Education of Kate Simon
Mythology and Narrative in the Creation of Identity: The Woman Warrior

Works Cited

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