Sometimes we get lucky. It is a longstanding tradition for Frontiers editors to organize their issues thematically, arranging the contents of general issues in such a way that the pieces speak to one another, and alternating these issues with special ones devoted to single themes or topics. The attempt to achieve thematic coherence in a general issue can be an exercise in frustration, and we have been known to admit defeat in particular instances, while renewing our dedication to the larger struggle. But sometimes an issue comes together, seemingly without effort, in such a way that we are tempted to claim it was all our idea all along. Such is the case with the issue before you. It is not, strictly speaking, a special issue; we sent out no call for papers, and no guest editor worked with us to shepherd its contents toward publication. But it is a special issue nonetheless, devoted to stories and storytellers, ranging from scholarly essays about the politics of narration and personal essays that tell stories within stories to the work of our featured artist, Barb Matz, who invites us with her colorful multimedia works to imagine the stories the women she depicts might tell.
In the lead article Abigail Palko describes the determination of two Irish women writers, Dorothy Macardle and Maeve Brennan, to convey in novels their bitter disappointment with the new Irish Free State for its systematic encroachment on Irish women's personal freedoms despite the explicit promise in the 1922 Constitution of equal citizenship for men and women. Palko summons Emily Dickinson to explain Macardle and Brennan's use of novels as the oblique vehicles for their protest; to tell the truth and hope to be heard, the women had to "tell it slant." Telling it slant in many ways characterizes the storytelling in this issue.
Like Palko, other contributors explore the politics of telling it slant. In her decolonizing essay, Lani Cupchoy reconstructs the history of the Hawaiian warrior woman Chiefess Manono, juxtaposing the nineteenth-century colonial script with stories still being told by native elders in the present day. As do several of the other pieces in this issue, Cupchoy's essay is experimental in form and analysis and features stories within stories. In the first of three personal essays in this issue, classicist Robert Ball describes his painstaking collaboration with novelist Erica Jong on her novel about the Greek poet Sappho (ca. 600 BC), assisting her with translations from ancient Greek to English and advising generally about Greek history and culture. So impressed was Ball with the scholarly care that Jong took with her re-creation of the poet's world that he was dismayed to find Sappho's Leap dismissed by academic reviewers, who treated the novel as Fear of Flying redux. In our last essay about the politics of narrative choices, Darcy Brandel examines Grace Paley's development of dialogic storytelling strategies as expressions of her commitment to democratic action. Brandel shows how Paley consistently undermines her narrators' authority by interrupting them with other voices, always off-putting and often harshly critical.
"Bear Dreaming," Lorna Milne's personal essay, also pursues an innovative narrative strategy that allows her to explore several states of consciousness while chronicling several years in the life of the narrator, a wife and mother, whose marriage withers and dies and who remakes her life with her daughters and, eventually, a second husband. The essay alternates between the narrator's record of her dreams, her musings on their meanings, and life in the waking world, which may or may not intersect with her dreaming states. The last personal essay, Rebecca Gould's "Becoming a Georgian Woman," is a searing account of a love story--with a national history and culture, and with a man who served as its exemplar and exponent--gone very wrong. It is a painful meditation on the nature of patriarchy in Western and non-Western societies, the distillation, but not abstraction, of an American female graduate student's two years in Tbilisi. Dominique Bregent-Heald shares with Gould a concern with the human costs, especially for women, of oppressive national mythologies. In "Women in Between" she explores the national narrative of conquest and hegemonic whiteness through its depiction in films set in the U.S.-Mexican and U.S.-Canadian borderlands. She places in tension early twentieth-century filmic portrayals of "half-breed" women, whose fates mirror the inevitability of American triumph over the instability of border life, and the actual history of race mixing in these regions.
We hope you enjoy reading these pieces as much as we did. There is much to ponder here.
Susan E. Gray
Tempe, March 22, 2010
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|Author:||Gray, Susan E.; Gullett, Gayle|
|Publication:||Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies|
|Date:||May 1, 2010|
|Previous Article:||Feminist Currents.|
|Next Article:||From the Uninvited to the Visitor: the post-Independence dilemma faced by Irish women writers.|