Author: cynzed

Article Expert: Torn Lace and Other Stories

Hoffman, Joan M.. “Torn Lace and Other Transformations: Rewriting the Bride’s Script in Selected Stories by Emilia Pardo Bazán”. Hispania 82.2 (1999): 238–245. JSTOR. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.


Article Expert: Gendered Space, Racialized Space: Nativism, the Immigrant Woman, and Stephen Crane’s Maggie”

“Gendered Space, Racialized Space: Nativism, the Immigrant Woman, and Stephen Crane’s Maggie” by Katrina Irving

Main Argument

Irving locates the immigrant woman to draw connections between the engendering of a feminine gender and racism; she notes that “when articulated together, threw into relief specific issues that directly affected Americans’ conception of the nation state and the ‘threat’ that aliens appeared to pose to it” (32). Although she does not argue that Crane himself is a nativist, she utilizes Maggie to illustrate how his text “deploys specific discourses and rhetorical strategies circulating contemporaneously within the culture at large, and which can be identified as nativist” (33).


Key Points

  1. Racism, Prostitution, and Gender
    1. Three positions on immigration: nativists (xenophobic, biological racism, genetic superiority), Americanizers (cultural/environmental racism, immigrants unassimilable), and cultural pluralists (pro-immigration; American needs diverse culture.)
    2. Nativist connection between the image of the “grotesque” and “unruly” female prostitute in bridging gender and race in conversations about the “problem” of immigration
    3. “In the paranoiac narrative of this nativist vision, the body itself becomes the site at which a territorial struggle occurs: the racial struggle is displaced from the space of the Republic to the internal space of the racial struggle is displaced from the space of the Republic to the internal space of the body” (34).
    4. “Escaping that sequestration in the home that served to contain the sexually saturated female body, the immigrant woman’s free movement from the tenement to the larger urban space was seen as a refusal of the woman’s organic connection with the family space/life of the children, a flouting of the gendered division of space” (35).
    5. Immigrant woman “is constructed as the bearer of inferior, but potentially triumphant, genes” (36). They pose a threat to the stability of the gendered and racialized Anglo-Saxon space.
    6. There were also anxieties about a connection between immigrants and prostitution and increased immigration leading to increased prostitution
  2. Textual Evidence in Maggie
    1. Invasion of fecundity in the streets through the numerous children, which she describes as “Crane’s excremental vision of the mindlessly proliferating alien female” (36)
    2. Maggie’s mother is “monstrous and beastial” with a “degenerate nature” (37) – she also argues that “Crane displaces the physique of the prostitute onto the immigrant mother as though to suggest that the mother confirms the daughter’s inevitable future” (39).
    3. Maggie, however, conforms to many archetypes of a traditional heroine making her seem out of place in comparison to her mother, but she goes on to explore spaces where “sexes mix freely” and “sexes and races interact,” which makes her a threat to systemic stability
    4. Maggie’s existence “compounds her sexual threat by invoking fears of miscegenation” and her ability to move across the boarders of sex and race “exemplifies the threat of Anglo-Saxon race suicide” and her suicide, thus, demonstrates “a reassertion of control and a recontainment . . . of the threat Maggie has embodied in her efforts to do so. Hence, the tragedy of Maggie is that she can only ever redeem herself—and the country to which she has come—by ceasing to be” (40).

My Thoughts (in brief)

Irving raises a lot of fascinating points about how gender and race become entangled through the immigrant woman and prostitute tropes in American society at this time. It might have been helpful to see her do more close reading on the moments where race and prostitution are directly referenced to further explore those ideas.

Discussion Questions


  1. Last week we had a detailed discussion regarding Edna’s suicide. In what ways is Maggie’s death different in Crane’s story? Do you agree with Irvin’s assessment?
  2. Given this framework of the immigrant woman, do you think this text is harsher in its representation of women than men?

Article Expert: Unbearable Realism

Unbearable Realism: Freedom, Ethics and Identity in The Awakening By Peter Ramos

Main Argument

According to Ramos, current critics interpret the ending of The Awakening as representing one of the following: (1) Edna’s triumph or defeat against patriarchy, (2) “cosmic justice for her moral deviation,” or (3) a flaw in successful writing on Kate Chopin’s part; in this article, he poses a different interpretation: as a warning for what can happen when one is unwilling to dedicate “to any of the available social roles” (145-7). He elaborates that Edna “fails to uphold and live by . . . ‘ethics’” in a society that “for the most part prevented [women and other marginalized groups] from living ethically” and that her failure, in conjunction with the successes of other women in the novella, provides a critique of realism and naturalism (151).


Key Points

  1. What does Edna want?
    1. Ramos argues that she wants an “impossible state—a freedom from identity” which “deprives her life of meaning (and finally of life itself)” (147).
    2. He also suggests that “this failure is not universal among all the female characters” as Mademoiselle Reisz (artist) and Adele Ratignolle (mother-woman) “inhabit social identities available to them only to actively and creatively transform them” (148). Edna, however, chooses a different path.
    3. Edna’s desire is a fantasy that “she both nurtures and refrains from acting on, in part because of the social constructions and limitations she must face in the world” (149). Although she attempts to live outside of social constructions—to inhabit “a space of unmediated reality beyond identity”—but she “lacks the will (and the belief) to commit herself to acting on these fantasies” and the failure to realize such fantasies implies “that no suitable identity for a woman like Edna is available” (149).
  2. Critique of Realism/Naturalism
    1. Ramos utilizes this interplay between reality and fantasy in constructing identity in order to engage with where The Awakening fits into realism and naturalism. The novella depicts the “socio-economic and cultural realities women like Edna faced” but it also reveals limitations in enabling “practical possibilities that exist outside their realm”.
    2. He adds we acknowledge that these literary genres include “exposition of empirical, social and political realities, as well as the belief that fate—biological, social, or institutional—absolutely determines one’s destiny” and that the novella implies “the philosophical boundaries and consequences associated with these literary genres and can and must be overcome” if women like Edna are to survive (151).
  3. Edna’s Fate
    1. However, he concludes Edna is responsible for her destiny since she makes “self-defeating choices” because she does not believe she can fit within the roles her system affords to her, unlike Reisz and Ratignolle (152).
    2. He brings in Kearns who articulates: “subscription to the values associated with naturalism, including the belief that forces beyond the control of the self absolutely determine the self, seems to be Edna’s alone, and such a view, Chopin’s text implies, is finally erroneous and deadly” (153).
    3. He concludes that “Edna is neither absolutely determined by patriarchy and its limitations, nor free from her social conditions and restraints—in any inhabitable, practical way—when she commits suicide” (154) and that “her withdrawals only succeed in obliterating the social positions she might otherwise use to determine as much of her own life as possible (155).

My Thoughts (in brief)

It’s interesting that Ramos demonstrates how The Awakening uses elements of realism/naturalism and critiques its concepts (especially determinism) at the same time. However, the article’s dedication to demonstrating Edna’s failure in comparison to the other women makes me wonder whether this rationale potentially oversimplifies her condition.

Discussion Questions


  1. What do we make of the ending, especially in light Ramos’ observations? What does the ending inform us about naturalism and the relationship between social identities and determinism?
  2. Is it fair to suggest that Edna’s demise was due to indecision, an inability to commit and see through her fantasies, or to utilize existing social positions to subvert the system (as Reisz and Ratignolle potentially do)?

Article Expert: Feminist Thing Theory in Sister Carrie

Feminist Thing Theory in Sister Carrie by Tracy Lemaster

Main Argument

Critics overlook the significance of Theodore Dreiser’s repetition of things (something, everything, anything, nothing) as merely poor writing or the author’s de-emphasis of the meaning-making of words. Examining Sister Carrie through feminist thing theory challenges these former perceptions by arguing that the novel’s thing rhetoric “offers a proto-feminist depiction of a woman whose desire of things brings a psychological, sexual, and aesthetic development that positions men on the periphery” (53).

Thing Theory

  • Bill Brown: “the animate and inanimate reciprocally shape, mimic, and occupy one another,” thing theory is used to create meaning about identity and anxiety
  • Feminist thing theorists “recognize the political in the personal” and engage “women’s marginalization from democratic processes and their historical positioning as objects” (42).

Key Points: Economics, Sex, Theater

  • Economics Things
    • thing terms are used to reference material objects and immaterial states: the object itself and what that object represents or can be used to represent
    • Benn Michaels observes that Carrie associates money with power
    • Carrie also sees money as a means to achieve her desires by navigating her subjectivity and the value system of the city’s economic structure
  • Sex Things
    • Men, such as Drouet and Hurstwood, use thing rhetoric to objectify women as “something(s)” to be desired or possessed and dematerialize women who fall out of their favor as “nothing”
    • Totalizing language such as “anything,” “everything,” and “nothing” are used to demarcate gender power dynamics, rendering relationships “a commercial exchange of love for things” (45)
      • Lemaster argues that Carrie becomes fluent in this rhetoric and employs it in moments of either internal of verbalized retaliation, such as during her argument with Drouet when she conceives of leaving him
    • Theatrical Things
      • Carrie doesn’t escape objectification on the stage, but instead “assumes control over that objectification” mirroring her author’s creation of her (50)
      • Sarah Pink: “shift from imitation of externals to the inner realm” undercuts Judith Butler’s gender performance theory to emphasize agency in negotiating roles and gender scripts (51).
      • Her trajectory in Under the Gaslight: stage fright (pure object), performing for the audience (object for male gaze), to transforming Laura “into her thing” (controlling her object)

My Thoughts (in brief)

The narrator insertions, especially at the end of the novel, complicate this reading for me; it’s unclear whether Carrie’s seizure of her subjectivity/objectivity is a positive or redeemable trajectory. I’m also interested in how naturalism’s determinism plays a role in this assessment.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you agree that Carrie is able to utilize this economic system—a system of things—in order to seize control over her means of objectification in urban society? How does this speak to the role of determinism in naturalism? Does it challenge or support it?
  2. If Carrie can be argued to have become savvy about thing rhetoric to a point where she can use it to her advantage, what becomes of Drouet and Hurstwood’s ability to navigate this world of things? What does this say about the potential for mobility of men and women in Dreiser’s Sister Carrie?

Article Choice: Sister Carrie

Lemaster, Tracy. “Feminist Thing Theory In Sister Carrie.” Studies In American Naturalism 4.1 (2009): 41-55. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.

Here is the bibliographic information for the article that I have selected for review this week.


Note– This has been added to Blackboard. –Donna