In I Know That You Know That I Know, Butte explores how stories narrate human consciousness. Butte locates a historical shift in the representation of webs of consciousnesses in narrative—what he calls “deep intersubjectivity”—and examines the effect this shift has since had on Western literature and culture. The author studies narrative practices in two ways: one pairing eighteenth-and nineteenth-century British novels (Moll Flanders and Great Expectations, for example), and the other studying genre practices—comedy, anti-comedy and masquerade—in written and film narratives (Jane Austen and His Girl Friday, for example, and Hitchcock’s Cary Grant films).
Butte’s second major claim argues for new ways to read representations of human consciousness, whether or not they take the form of deep intersubjectivity. Phenomenological criticism has lost its credibility in recent years, but this book identifies better reading strategies arising out of what the author calls poststructuralist phenomenology, grounded largely in the work of the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. Butte criticizes the extreme of transcendental idealism (first-wave phenomenological criticism) and cultural materialism (when it rules out the study of consciousness). He also criticizes the dominant Lacanian framework of much academic film criticism.
The Imprint of Another Life: Adoption Narratives and Human Possibility addresses a series of questions about common beliefs about adoption. Underlying these beliefs is the assumption that human qualities are innate and intrinsic, an assumption often held by adoptees and their families, sometimes at great emotional cost. This book explores representations of adoption—transracial, transnational, and domestic same-race adoption—that reimagine human possibility by questioning this assumption and conceiving of alternatives.
Literary scholar Margaret Homans examines fiction making’s special relationship to themes of adoption, an “as if” form of family making, fabricated or fictional instead of biological or “real.” Adoption has tended to generate stories rather than uncover bedrock truths. Adoptive families are made, not born; in the words of novelist Jeanette Winterson, “adopted children are self-invented because we have to be.” In attempting to recover their lost histories and identities, adoptees create new stories about themselves. While some believe that adoptees cannot be whole unless they reconnect with their origins, others believe that privileging biology reaffirms hierarchies (such as those of race) that harm societies and individuals. Adoption is lived and represented through an irresolvable tension between belief in the innate nature of human traits and belief in their constructedness, contingency, and changeability. The book shows some of the ways in which literary creation, and a concept of adoption as a form of creativity, manages this tension.
The texts examined include fiction (e.g., classic novels such as Silas Marner, What Maisie Knew, and Beloved); memoirs by adoptees, adoptive parents, and birthmothers; drama, documentary films, advice manuals, social science writing; and published interviews with adoptees, parents, and birth parents. Along the way the book tracks the quests of adoptees who, whether or not they meet their original families, must construct their own stories rather than finding them; follows transnational adoptees as they return, hopes held high, to Korea and China; looks over the shoulders of a generation of girls adopted from China as they watch Disney’s iconic Mulan, with its alluring story of destiny written on the skin; and listens to birthmothers as they struggle to tell painful secrets held for decades.
This book engages in debates within adoption studies, women’s and gender studies, transnational studies, and ethnic studies; it will appeal to literary scholars and critics, including specialists in memoir or narrative theory, and to general readers interested in adoption and in race.
The construction of memory entails a battle not only between memory and forgetting but also between different memories. There are multiple constructions of memory, and in the dispute between them, some become hegemonic, while others remain in the margins. Ana Forcinito explores the intermittences of transitional justice and memory in post-dictatorship Uruguay. The processes of building memory and transitional justice are repetitive but inconstant. They are contested by both internal and external forces and shaped by tensions between oblivion and silence. Forcinito explores models of reconciliation to present an alternative narrative of the past and to expose the blind spots of memory.
Although Isak Dinesen has been widely acclaimed as a popular writer, her work has received little sustained critical attention. In this revisionist study, Susan Hardy Aiken takes up the complex relations of gender, sexuality, and representation in Dinesen's narratives. Drawing on feminist, psychoanalytic, and post-structuralist theories, Aiken shows how the form and meaning of Dinesen's texts are affected by her doubled situations as a Dane who wrote in English, a European who lived for many years in Africa, and a woman who wrote under a male pseudonym within a male-centered literary tradition.
In a series of readings that range across Dinesen's career, Aiken demonstrates that Dinesen persistently asserted the inseparability of gender and the engendering of narrative. She argues that Dinesen's texts anticipate in remarkable ways some of the most radical insights of contemporary literary theories, particularly those of French feminist criticism. Aiken also offers a major rereading of Out of Africa that both addresses its distinctiveness as a colonialist text and places it within Dinesen's larger oeuvre.
In Aiken's account, Dinesen's work emerges as a compelling inquiry into sexual difference and the ways it informs culture, subjectivity, and the language that is their medium. This important book will at last give Isak Dinesen's work the prominence it deserves in literary studies.
In the first major critical reading of Italian American narrative literature in two decades, Fred L. Gardaphé presents an interpretive overview of Italian American literary history. Examining works from the turn of the twentieth century to the present, he develops a new perspective—variously historical, philosophical, and cultural—by which American writers of Italian descent can be read, increasing the discursive power of an ethnic literature that has received too little serious critical attention. Gardaphé draws on Vico’s concept of history, as well as the work of Gramsci, to establish a culture-specific approach to reading Italian American literature. He begins his historical reading with narratives informed by oral traditions, primarily autobiography and autobiographical fiction written by immigrants. From these earliest social–realist narratives, Gardaphé traces the evolution of this literature through tales of “the godfather” and the mafia; the “reinvention of ethnicity” in works by Helen Barolini, Tina DeRosa, and Carole Maso; the move beyond ethnicity in fiction by Don DeLillo and Gilbert Sorrentino; to the short fiction of Mary Caponegro, which points to a new direction in Italian American writing. The result is both an ethnography of Italian American narrative and a model for reading the signs that mark the “self-fashioning” inherent in literary and cultural production. Italian Signs, American Streets promises to become a landmark in the understanding of literature and culture produced by Italian Americans. It will be of interest not only to students, critics, and scholars of this ethnic experience, but also to those concerned with American literature in general and the place of immigrant and ethnic literatures within that wide framework.